Tuesday, September 03, 2013

What happens to a Middle Eastern country when a Ba'athist dictatorship implodes without US intervention?

From the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (via AFP), September 1, 2013:
BEIRUT (AFP) - More than 110,000 people have died in the conflict in Syria since March 2011, a rights watchdog said Sunday, days after alleged gas attacks near Damascus shocked the world.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the toll since the beginning of the 29-month uprising now stands at 110,371 people, with at least 40,146 civilians killed including nearly 4,000 women and more than 5,800 children.

The group, which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers on the ground throughout Syria, said 21,850 rebel fighters had also been killed.

On the regime side, the group reported the deaths of at least 27,654 army soldiers, 17,824 pro-regime militia and 171 members of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, which has sent fighters to battle alongside the Syrian army.

The group counted another 2,726 unidentified people killed in the fighting throughout the war-torn country up until August 31.

The figures are a testament to the levels of violence wracking the country, which has been ravaged by a civil war that began with peaceful demonstrations calling for regime change.

Compounding the chronic violence, hundreds were killed in an alleged poison gas attack on August 21 that some Western and Arab countries have blamed on the regime of Bashar al-Assad -- a claim it denies.
For reasons that Spencer Ackerman once explained in connection with some earlier casualty estimates, these figures are probably too low.

From today's Foreign Policy
[O]n Tuesday the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said that the number of Syrians registered as refugees has exceeded two million, increasing by a million in the past six months. Additionally,approximately 4.25 million people have been displaced within Syria by the nearly two-year conflict.
What's the point? Well, there are a lot of implications, and this is only one of them.

=> Some further substantive reflections on the ongoing Syrian catastrophe, which is now turning into an increasingly urgent foreign policy dilemma for the US and other western countries, may follow soon. Something I wrote back in January seems equally timely right now:
Meanwhile, the struggle for Syria continues. The likelihood of outside military intervention, now or any time in the immediately foreseeable future, strikes me as very slim. (Of course, that doesn't include the involvement of Sunni jihadists on the side of the rebels and of small numbers of Iranian and Hizbullah fighters on the side of the regime, along with funding and arms for the warring factions from a range of sources.)  [JW: That's still true, because the kind of limited punitive bombing strikes being discussed right now don't count as serious military intervention Syria's civil war.]  So the struggle will mostly play itself out within Syria. It's hard to imagine any outcomes that don't look bad (for two plausible speculative overviews, out of many possible examples, see here & here), but I guess we'll see. And we should all be paying attention, because the outcome of this struggle will have major implications, not only for Syria itself, but across the region and beyond.
—Jeff Weintraub