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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Middle East Expert Says Don’t Rush To War With Syria

Fawaz A. Gerges is pictured in 2007. (Wikimedia Commons)

Fawaz A. Gerges is pictured in 2007. (Wikimedia Commons)

Fawaz Gerges is a longtime observer of the Middle East and fears the United States is rushing to take military action in Syria.

Gerges, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, says Assad’s use of force and likely use of chemical weapons against his people should not be tolerated.

But instead of taking military action, he argues the U.S. needs to go to the United Nations Security Council, assemble an international coalition and try to broker a settlement in which Russia and China join the U.S. in finding ways to ease Syrian president Bashar al-Assad out of power.

What’s more important here: is it the credibility of Barack Obama or is it basically stopping the carnage inside Syria?
– Fawaz Gerges

Gerges says he is less interested in punitive measures against Assad than creating the conditions for a diplomatic settlement.

“Let me tell you what’s going to happen the morning after the United States attacks Syria: [Assad is] going to hunker down, and he’s going to emerge a few days after the Americans attack, by proclaiming to the Syrian people and the Arab people that he stood up to the might of the United States. He has survived, he has another day to fight. The civil war goes on. The killing goes on, and little would have changed,” Gerges told Here & Now

Gerges says the Syrian conflict is no longer a conflict between Assad and the opposition, rather a regional war by proxy — part of an international rivalry between the United States and Russia. He says unilateral action by President Obama is an attempt to preserve the United States’ credibility.

“But what’s more important here: is it the credibility of Barack Obama or is it basically stopping the carnage inside Syria?” Gerges asked. “You can do both, but more intelligently, more comprehensively, and also by proving to the world that the United States has learned the lessons of unilateral actions.”

Gerges said the international community views the United States’ motivations for military action in Syria through a cynical lens, as a result of the Iraq War.

“The irony is that the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ assembled by George W. Bush was wider and broader and bigger than the coalition being assembled by the Obama administration,” Gerges said. “And the tragedy is that this is a president who cares deeply about international law, who cares deeply about multilateral action, who cares deeply about the United States being a good global citizen in the international community.”

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