By Paul Mutter
Jimmy Carter’s former Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, who now serves on a the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, writes that the US should work with regional allies to unite Syrian opposition movements that are in line with Western priorities and arm them:
So, what should be done? In my view, the US could work with Turkey, Saudi Arabia (taking care not to support Islamic extremists), and its NATO allies, especially France and Britain, to create a prospective successor government for Syria, and to arm its military element. Such a government would have to be representative and coherent. And Western powers would need to be sure that their weapons would not fall into potentially unfriendly hands.
The fact that Iran is arming the Assad regime calls for countervailing action. Some have suggested a more active military role for the US, beginning with a no-fly zone. It may come to that. But the French and British, who urged that course in Libya, have made no such proposal for Syria. One reason is that Syria has a substantial air-defense system, which would have to be suppressed by a bombing campaign – causing significant civilian casualties and risking the loss of aircraft and crews.
Before starting down that road, the US should be convinced that military action would not require US ground forces in Syria. It should also be confident (which is impossible now) about the nature of a successor government.
As far as the public record goes, the Obama Administration has so far not moved to provide direct military assistance to the rebels, though according to reports it is involved in sharing intelligence with Turkey and Saudi Arabia and has been providing nonlethal assistance, such as communications equipment.
The administration’s most significant action this week towards Syria was the dispatch of US forces to Jordan so “[w]e have a group of our forces there working to help build a headquarters there and to insure that we make the relationship between the United States and Jordan a strong one so that we can deal with all the possible consequences of what’s happening in Syria,” the AP reports.