Syria Crisis: What Are the Options For the West?

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Marwa Daoudy is a professor of Middle East politics. She's Syrian and is currently a visiting scholar at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in Princeton, New Jersey. Marwa Daoudy, no one in the international community seems to want to intervene in Syria. President Assad has called the troubles there war, so what are the options as far as you can see it?

Marwa Daoudy: Well, I think first the primary goal and objective should be to be concerned about protecting the country and its population. The challenge now would be to first halt the violence and bring about political transition, so moving away from the military and security options to political solution. And I guess this is what is underlying the effort of organizing a world powers meeting this coming Saturday, organized by Kofi Annan to sort of implement his sixth point. As you know he's plan failed to bring a ceasefire and they're trying, he's trying now to have all of the world powers, including Russia, China, who have been reluctant to have an international intervention in Syria, to come onboard and bring a meaningful solution to the conflict.

Werman: But that seems to be a key point there that Russia, who many say, including our last guest, is not just a key ally of Syria, it's supporting Assad. I mean what can be done about Russia because it doesn't seem like they're budging.

Daoudy: Well, Russia considers that it had been lured during the Libyan intervention, that it was about protecting the Libyan civilians and it was transformed into regime change. And that is also explaining Russia's current position on Syria. I think it is not in Russia's interest to have civil war, full fledged civil war happening in Syria. It's not in their regional interest, it's not in their interest in you know, defining their position in the Middle East. That will impact also on the strategic position internationally. So, the Russians also are monitoring the situation. They do realize that there are clashes in Damascus. And by the way, these clashes happen a few miles away from the presidential palace, so in that sense I guess there would be a shift in Russia's position if they can be convinced that their strategic interests would be preserved, but they have to be part of a political transition and somehow severing their links with the Assad regime in order to preserve the country and preserve the situation in Syria while having them still a major player in the game.

Werman: What do you think is Assad's and Syria's thinking when they see Annan's peace plan and ceasefire fail, and then the international foreign ministers gather to meet again in Geneva. Aren't they just betting that nothing's going to happen?

Daoudy: Well, I mean they've clearly been playing on time and they've been assured by the fact that the Russians were backing the regime, and that they would be able to play on time while trying to effectively crush the opposition movements militarily. However, there are pockets now which are outside of government controlled, such as the Idlib Province and other areas, and in that sense the fact that the elite guards also have been targeted in the heart of the capital is also showing that there's a shift in the military balance in that sense. There used to be total symmetrical advantage favoring the governmental forces and now the rebel groups are somehow being empowered and taking over effective strategies.

Werman: The United States at this point with fighting raging in Syria and no end in sight, what constructive role can the US play, especially with this meeting this Saturday.

Daoudy: I think the US has to come with an agreement directly with the Russians on the issue. This is the major, major challenge. I think the Libyan operation is still on Russian's minds and the Americans would need to convince the Russians and indirectly, the Chinese as well, who have also stakes here, that they're not seeking military intervention in Syria, but they are seeing a solution to a problem which has a potential to spill over throughout the region, but I guess here it's also on the Russian side somehow signaling to the Americans that they're back in the game. And that they're back as a power, and in that sense, the Americans I think will need to take this into consideration.

Werman: Marwa Daoudy, a visiting scholar at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton. Thank you very much for your time.

Daoudy: Thanks.