War Scenarios for Syria


BERLIN/DAMASCUS (Own report) - Government advisors in Berlin are debating war scenarios for a possible western military intervention in Syria. According to the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), a "full-blown civil war" is looming in that country, running "also along confessional lines." This raises pressure on the West to intervene militarily. Whereas, Middle East experts are urgently advising that an engagement of the armed forces be avoided and all arms deliveries to the insurgents be halted, an expert in "security policy," on the other hand, is calling for German participation in an armed conflict. In combination with diplomatic steps, a "military engagement" would not be "the conclusion or even the breakdown of politics, but rather its essential component." In the midst of this ongoing debate over another eventual combat mission in Syria, a former "German government Coordinator of German-American Cooperation" has substantiated that the West and Russia's current dispute over the policy toward Syria, is not at all about "human rights versus dictatorships," but geostrategic interests.

Criminals Elements

Because of obvious internal disagreement, Berlin's German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) just published two divergent papers on the question of a possible NATO military engagement in Syria. One was written by the SWP's special Middle East research group. The authors affirm that violence has "dramatically escalated" in Syria. In spite of constantly repeated allegations to the contrary, it must be acknowledged that "the leadership and the major portion of the powerful security forces" remain "loyal to the regime." The insurgents continue to carry out "repeated attacks on the security forces, the army and secret service," but certainly pose "no serious challenge" to the regime, not least of all because they are a "rallying point for criminal elements and are fragmented into local rebel groups." In spite of the economic sanctions, which are greatly deteriorating the population's living situation, the opposition remains "divided and (...) incapable of united action," including the Syrian National Council, which is supported only by a part of the population. A foreign military intervention, as the National Council had recently called for, is "categorically rejected by many Syrians."[1]

Escalation to a War of Confessions

In their short analysis, the SWP's Middle East experts list various scenarios for the development in Syria. According to this analysis, it cannot be ruled out that the Assad regime can remain in power, but a transition to a full-blown civil war that "very likely will be fought along confessional lines" is just as possible.[2] This would pit Sunnis against Alawites and Christians. The potential of violence in such a civil war is apparent: observers worry that the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey (which dropped from 20,000 to 10,000) could swell to hundreds of thousands if the regime is overthrown.[3] Hence, the Middle East experts write that the West must do everything to prevent an escalation of violence. In particular, it must halt all arms deliveries to the insurgents, because "a further militarization of the insurgency (...) would hardly alter the balance of power decisively but continue to increase the number of civilian victims." The authors warn against a military intervention, but instead call for the continued isolation of the regime, even within Syria itself, to provoke an "implosion." Of course, this also could degenerate into a completely incontrollable civil war.

Component of Politics

In a second paper, the director of the SWP's "security policy" research group shows his receptiveness for NATO's military interventions. The author writes that with its explicit demand for Assad's resignation, the West has "reduced" its margin of maneuver, and is therefore committed to pursue a "regime change." Military deployment is "not the conclusion or the breakdown of politics," but rather "its essential component," as long as it is accompanied by diplomatic activities. When UN representatives declared that the Syrian government's operations are "crimes against humanity," they, in principle, opened the way for taking action without a UN Security Council mandate. The author assumes that "NATO member countries are rhetorically preparing for this eventuality." Even though "all western countries show basic signs of war fatigue," their "readiness" to go to war could be "reactivated" if the humanitarian situation deteriorates - as the West's interventionist mood has shown during the war on Libya.[4]

Libyan Model

The author lists five military scenarios, which, he believes, "in reality cannot be so rigorously separated one from the other." These scenarios include direct support for the insurgents, the establishment of a so-called security zone on Syrian territory - which in fact means occupying part of the country - and NATO military actions. The development would most likely "resemble the Libyan operation:" First "special covert operations to damage the regime's military infrastructure," as well as "inducing high-ranking Syrian officers to change sides; accompanied by the training and arming" of the insurgents, "not directly, but via regional allies;" and finally the establishment of the above mentioned security zones. Outright war could then no longer be prevented. The author demands that Germany participate in a war on Syria - not merely "symbolically." This is inevitable after the dispute over NATO's attack on Libya.[5]

Power Political Perspective

While the SWP is publicly debating the possibility of a NATO war on Syria, the German government's former "Coordinator of German American Cooperation," Karsten D. Voigt (SPD), asserts that the current dispute between the West and Russia over the adequate policy towards Syria is not about "human rights versus dictatorship," but geostrategic interests. In a recent closed discussion of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), Voigt called for a clearer "power political perspective" of the moral dispute. Whereas Russia would prefer a "secular dictatorship," the USA - according to Voigt - is trying to bring a "Sunnite majority regime" to power.[6] This, in fact, corresponds to Washington's and Berlin's new course focused on Islamist circles in the Arab countries and cooperation with also the Muslim Brotherhood (german-foreign-policy.com reported [7]). This is why particularly the Islamist countries Qatar [8] and Saudi Arabia were pushing for the recent interventions in the Arab world - in close coordination with the West, including with Germany.

[1], [2] Muriel Asseburg, Heiko Wimmen: Der gewaltsame Machtkampf in Syrien. Szenarien und Einwirkungsmöglichkeiten der internationalen Gemeinschaft; SWP-Aktuell 12, Februar 2012
[3] Milchpulver und Mullbinden; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 25.02.2012
[4], [5] Markus Kaim: Die Krise in Syrien - Möglichkeiten und Grenzen militärischen Eingreifens; SWP-Aktuell 11, Februar 2012
[6] Russisch-amerikanische Beziehungen in der Sackgasse; dgap.org 21.02.2012
[7] see also Der religiöse Faktor and Einflusskampf am Nil (III)
[8] see also Die kommenden Kräfte