Obama has now come up against his own words and the stakes are enormous. The
States has a range of options, including several that do
not include sending American forces into Syria.
One path is to provide more muscular support to certain rebel units. The administration has been reluctant to arm the rebels because Islamist radicals, including some closely affiliated with al Qaeda, have become an important part of the anti-Assad forces. This is problematic, since
Washington has called for
an end to the Assad regime, a regime that, incidentally, is closely allied with
But it is possible to discern the members whose ideology is relatively consistent with
U.S. values and policies. Those
fighters should receive carefully selected weaponry to raise their
effectiveness against Assad and increase their appeal within the opposition.
In addition to helping arm them, the
should look into the possibility of
creating safe havens, no-fly zones, where the opposition and civilians might be protected by NATO from Syrian air attacks. There is also the option of destroying Assad's most dangerous weapons stocks through aerial bombardment. Although, depending on the target, bombing could carry the risk of spreading the contents, and in the end, the
may need to remove the stockpiles by designating allies to enter the facilities
that hold them. Any action should be taken, to the extent possible, under the
The one course of action
Washington cannot afford is to ignore its own warnings
and the U.S.
intelligence community's conclusions.