Failure to act in Syria could lead to disaster

By Waleed Brinjikji
Published on April 23, 2012

Many believed that the strong moving winds of the Arab Spring would quietly subside before reaching Syria. The Hama massacre of 1982, where the father of the current leader killed at least 10,000 innocent civilians is etched into the conscience of the Syrian people — a reminder of the regime’s brutality. However, the yearning for freedom was overwhelming. And so were the costs.

Hamza Al-Khatib, a 13-year-old who participated in the peaceful protests, was detained, tortured and returned to his family barely recognizable. His face was shattered and his corpse riddled with cigarette burns and bullet wounds. Stories like Hamza’s are not unique.

The humanitarian consequences of failing to actively support the pro-democracy movement in Syria are staggering. Already, tens of thousands have been killed or injured. Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has even blocked aid envoys, barring his own people from humanitarian aid. He has littered refugee escape routes with land mines. Reports have documented refugees arriving to camps with their legs blown off — punishment for daring to escape. Torture and rape are the weapons of Assad’s army. Hospitals have been turned into dungeons, schoolyards into mass graves.

The Syrian people are fighting for the self-determination we enjoy every day. After all, supporting democracy was a guiding principle of our Founding Fathers. And our subsequent support for fledgling democracies in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa has enabled the freedom of millions. We must take a position that reflects the core values of our great nation.

Now, more than ever, the people of Syria need our help. A campaign establishing humanitarian corridors, as well as safe zones, airstrikes and support of the armed resistance movement against Assad is the only avenue to quickly and effectively curb Assad’s savagery.

Aside from the humanitarian crisis, the situation in Syria is very dangerous and the potential for instability in the region is very real. Moreover, Assad’s fall has obvious benefits for stability in the Middle East — an important aim of U.S. foreign policy. In a bid to fuel sectarianism and maintain a measure of control, Iran continues to provide both soldiers and weapons to assist the regime’s crackdown.

And Russia has provided first-world military capabilities to the regime, on credit. Removing Assad would significantly compromise both Iranian and Russian influence in the region, simultaneously paving the way to a new alliance between the U.S. and Syria.

An intervention akin to that in Libya, arming rebels and establishing a no-fly zone with the support of NATO, is the ideal course of action. And in the course of the Libyan operation, not one American life was lost.

And what’s the alternative? Diplomacy has proven futile. Both the Arab League and the United Nations have failed to broker any meaningful cease-fire. Sanctions have been equally ineffective. Inaction is not an option.

Waleed Brinjikji of Dearborn is a member of United For A Free Syria.