Ed Husain

The Arab Street

Husain examines politics, society, and radicalism in the greater Middle East.

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Closing the Syria Debate at the Economist

by Ed Husain
February 29, 2012

Demonstrators take part in a protest against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in Binsh near Idlib (Handout/Courtesy Reuters). Demonstrators take part in a protest against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in Binsh near Idlib (Handout/Courtesy Reuters).

Since last week, I have been participating in an Economist debate on military intervention in Syria. In today’s closing remarks, I argue that several tests need to be met before considering any Western military intervention:

During the course of this debate, developments on the ground in Syria have continued to unfold. Homs remains under siege and the Assad regime has put a new constitution to a referendum for which it claims 89% support from 8.4m voters. Hamas has now joined the ranks of the Syrian opposition, too.

Internationally, America’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, has said to the BBC that outside intervention in Syria is not possible when rebels do not hold territory and the opposition is not fully united. Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague, has also ruled out directly arming the rebels. At an international conference in Tunisia the Saudi delegation walked out in protest, referring to dialogue as “useless”, in the words of the Saudi king.

Put simply, just as Syrians are divided inside the country, the international community is torn by the potential consequences of intervening to save armed rebels in one city, Homs, while the inhabitants of other cities have continued to protest peacefully or support the Assad regime.

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