Thursday, November 24, 2011

Point of No Return?

Turkey says things in Syria have gone past a "point of no return" even though Turkey tried to convince Assad to stand down and stop killing their people to defend the regime with no concessions:

"Despite all this the Baath regime continues to use oppression and violence on its own people. Violence breeds violence. Now, unfortunately, Syria has come to a point of no return," he said.

One indication of the point of no return is that the Syrian opposition is using violence more and the loyalty of the army is cracking more visibly:

The growing number of attacks by former army men is causing the government to be careful which army units go where. This is because most of the troops are from religious groups that benefit little from the Assad dictatorship, and are suffering most from the current violence. The deserters have organized themselves, rather loosely, into the FSA (Free Syrian Army) and are carrying out more and more guerilla attacks. These are beginning to include assassinations of pro-Assad army and political leaders. Attacks on military bases are occurring, and desertions are increasing.

Also, minorities that sought the protection of the Alawite minority regime against the Sunni majority that traditionally oppressed them are starting to think about switching sides:

Some of the other minorities (Christians, Druze and so on) who have long been the Alawite Assad's allies are openly questioning who they should be backing. If these groups wait until the end, they will suffer enormous retribution. But if these groups switch sides at the right time, they will suffer less, and be able to remain in Syria. The timing of such defections is critical. If you turn too soon, the government forces will hurt you badly. If you go over to the rebels too late, you will still be seen as part of the Assad dictatorship.

So, is Turkey's response past the point of no return? Will they move into northern Syria to set up "humanitarian" safe zones where anti-regime elements could seek refuge and have a sanctuary from which they can challenge the Assad regime? Or would it be "humanitarian corridors" into the heart of Syria defended by foreign troops, as France is proposing?

Interestingly enough, Hezbollah seems to be getting ready to implement their Plan B should Assad their protector go belly up (also from the Strategypage link above):

The revolution is spilling over into Lebanon. There, Hezbollah is rumored to be planning a coup to install a Shia dictatorship.

Oh, and one more thing, on the way back home from deployment in CENTCOM's area of responsibility, the George H. W. Bush carrier battle group is hovering near Syria:

The U.S. navy said the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush arrived this week in the Mediterranean. It made no reference to the unrest in Syria and said the ship would continue through the Mediterranean en route home to the United States.

A Western diplomat in the region said about the U.S. aircraft carrier: "It is probably routine movement but it is going to put psychological pressure on the regime, and the Americans do not mind that."

I wondered if this carrier would be used against Libya since it was getting ready to sail when we were going in to Libya (well, over Libya). She didn't. But now we might need her if Syria really is past the point of no return. I'd expect it to provide cover for an evacuation of Americans from Syria through Lebanon rather than to take part in action against Assad. But you never know. Even now the Obama administration lawyers might be working out the details of how such a contingency could be defined as not-a-war.

Assad certainly isn't winning the struggle right now. Beyond that, a lot of results are still open--including the ultimate victory of the Assad regime. Who knows how long the Syrian people can endure the killings and arrests? Perhaps not as long as the Syrian army can endure defections. If events are past a point of no return from the spring, summer, and fall of civil unrest we've seen so far, we still don't know what the next point will be. It depends on what Turkey, France, Syria, the Syrian people, the Arab League, the UN, and NATO do. We all have a say in this, even if no one controls it. I guess that's my point.