– International ‘militarisation’ in Syria growing closer, warns US official (Telegraph, Feb. 8, 2012)
The official from the State Department told The Daily Telegraph that while the White House wants to exhaust all its diplomatic options, the debate in Washington has shifted away from diplomacy and towards more robust action since Russia and China blocked a United Nations resolution condemning Syria.
The Pentagon’s Central Command has begun a preliminary internal review of US military capabilities in the region, which one senior official called a “scoping exercise” that would provide options for the president if and when they were requested.
The White House said it was talking to allies about holding a “Friends of Syria” meeting in the near future and was considering delivering humanitarian aid to affected areas in the country.
“We are, of course, looking at humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, and we have for some time. We’re consulting with our international partners, and we anticipate this being one of the focuses of the discussions that we’ll have,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary.
Influential figures in Washington have recommended setting up a “humanitarian corridor” or safe haven, while others, such as Senator John McCain, have said it was time to consider arming the rebels of the Free Syrian Army.
Any plan to supply aid or set up a buffer zone would involve a military dimension to protect aid convoys or vulnerable civilians.
“The decision-makers have not determined we are at a point of no return,” the senior official told The Daily Telegraph. “There is still a window, it is just that that window is closing.
“I don’t know how much longer it is going to go on before pe
ople start looking at what else is on the table, because nothing is off the table.
“We definitely don’t want to militarise the situation. If it’s avoidable we are going to avoid it. But increasingly it looks like it may not be avoidable,” he said.
“There is always hope that this can be solved without it turning into a full-scale civil war and without the use of force, but it really involves Bashar al-Assad receiving the wake-up call.” Any outside military involvement in Syria has been regarded as more difficult and more risky than the mission in Libya.
It has a complex geography and ethnic mix and is the linchpin of a volatile region. But since the Russian veto at the UN, there is no doubting an extra urgency in the attitude of concerned governments and agencies.
Navi Pillay, the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for swift action to safeguard Syrians targeted by the security forces.
She stressed the “extreme urgency for the international community to cut through the politics and take effective action to protect the Syrian population”.