The noose is tightening around Bashar al-Assad’s neck. Not only has he been abandoned by his erstwhile interlocutors in the West, he has even been turned on by his own neighbors, as seen in the Arab League’s unprecedented decision to impose sanctions on Syria. Even the UN is starting to turn up the heat with its new report on the human rights abuses Assad is committing to stay in power.
But that does not mean he will go quickly or quietly. If he continues to cling to power, Syria could be plunged into a nightmarish civil war that could destabilize Iraq and other nearby states. To forestall that eventuality, I urge in the new Weekly Standard more robust action to topple Assad. Among the steps the U.S. and its allies should seriously consider, I write, is arming the Free Syrian Army fighting Assad, launching air strikes on regime targets, and supporting Turkey to set up “buffer zones” and “humanitarian corridors” that would be protected from Assad’s thugs.
All of these steps would not only protect innocent people but hasten the downfall of a terrible regime and usher in a replacement that is sure to be less of an Iranian ally.
As it happens, the Free Syrian Army advocates many of these same steps, as seen from this interview with its leader, Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad: “We are not in favor of the entry of foreign troops as was the case in Iraq, but we want the international community to give us logistical support. We also want international protection, the establishment of a no-fly zone, a buffer zone and strikes on certain strategic targets considered as crucial by the regime.”
The Free Syrian Army’s requests are worth taking seriously, as it does not appear peaceful protests will be sufficient to dislodge the Assad clique. The U.S. and our allies now have a major interest in getting rid of Assad as quickly as possible, and getting on with the work of rebuilding a freer Syria–and one that will not be in Tehran’s orbit.