Safe Area for Syria: An Assessment of Legality, Logistics and Hazards

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The preconditions and procedures for waging a foreign military intervention in Syria are carefully examined in this report, as are the outstanding obstacles facing the Syrian opposition. Popular support is a critical element of the success of any future campaign to weaken the regime.

Any military intervention option would result in the loss of life in Syria while likewise helping to stem current and future mass-scale killings at the behest of the regime’s leadership. Although these losses are impossible to quantify hypothetically, they can be minimized given the technological and strategic superiority of Western powers.

Popular support is a critical element of the success of any future campaign to weaken and collapse the regime’s security infrastructure, whether by conventional rebel means or via a combination of irregular warfare supported by Western-backed air cover.

Legitimacy for such a campaign can only come if the objectives are clearly articulated from the outset, and if they are publicly endorsed by other Arab and Muslim-majority nations as well as by the bulk of the international community. It is no minor development that Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, noted recently, “In light of the manifest failure of the Syrian authorities to protect their citizens, the international community needs to take urgent and effective measures to protect the Syrian people.”

Furthermore, the regime’s systematic attacks against local communities in Daraa, Deir Azzour, Homs, Hama and the Damascus suburbs strongly indicate that any attempt to hasten the end of the regime’s barbarism is likely be met with gratitude. Although it is impossible to poll a people under siege, there is credible evidence that suggests a large percentage of on-the-ground activists support foreign intervention, especially after fall of Tripoli and the death of Gaddafi. The Syrian people have amply demonstrated a heroic willingness to risk more bloodshed to secure their freedom and a marked indifference to regime accusations that they are the hirelings of Western “imperialism.”

This outline of strategic options and associated risk assessment of military intervention in Syria uses the most likely methods for building a legal case and the most feasible course of action for establishing a safe area, as judged solely by the author. Nothing herein aims to be exhaustive, least of all the list of hazards. Ultimately, the decision of how to rescue Syria from the Assad regime lies with the Syrian people and with the SNC, should it gain international and internal recognition as the sole legitimate representative of that people.