The Case Against Intervention in Syria

Regime change is overdue, but a slow squeeze is a smarter solution than war

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Robert King / Polaris

Soldiers with the Free Syrian Army battle against the Syrian Army in Homs, Syria on May 13, 2012.

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That's where the regime might be vulnerable. Syria is not an oil state; the regime does not have unlimited resources with which to buy off elites. Were truly crippling sanctions to be put in place, including an embargo on energy, it is likely that the regime would begin to crack. That might result in a brokered exit for the Assad family or a full-scale collapse of the regime. It seems unlikely that the regime could persist without some source of cash.

The Obama Administration is rightly trying to approach this problem with as many allies as possible. It is also correct in trying to persuade Russia, if not to join the coalition, then at least to ease its objections to sanctions. Moscow is unlikely to take that step until it concludes that the Assad regime is doomed and that Russia is better off positioning itself for whatever comes next. But even without Russia and Iran, real sanctions and embargoes will slowly bankrupt the Syrian regime--and hasten its end.

It would be morally far more satisfying to do something dramatic that would topple Assad tomorrow. But starving his regime might prove the more effective strategy.


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