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What Obama Could Do About Syria

1:30 PM, Sep 2, 2011 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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WEEKLY STANDARD contributors Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz write in today's Washington Post that as in the wake of Libya, President Obama appears to have grown more comfortable projecting American power. As such, "Syria will be his real test. The arguments for supporting Syrian protesters are easily as strong as those mustered to save the people of Benghazi."

Syria

The authors note that the strategic conditions in Syria are favorable for U.S. action:

Unlike Iran, the Assad regime could be hurt rapidly and perhaps decisively by sanctions. The regime probably doesn’t have a lot of hard currency — it appears to be burning through dollar reserves to maintain its currency and security services. Without constant cash injections from Iran, which may be slow given Tehran’s economic difficulties, hyperinflation in Syria is a real possibility.

Obama wouldn’t necessarily have to lead from the front. The European Union is slowly but surely developing tougher sanctions. The E.U., which purchases most of Syria’s oil, just passed an embargo, effective Nov. 15, on importation of Syrian crude. Implementing further comprehensive measures against Syria’s energy sector and central bank and Iranian commercial entities heavily invested in Syria may require the presidential bully pulpit and some arm-twisting of European allies and the Turks. But Bashar al-Assad’s bloody oppression gives Washington the high ground. What seemed impossible five months ago is becoming practicable.

And the Syrian opposition has unified sufficiently to be an effective recipient of Western aid. Funds for striking workers, a wide variety of portable encrypting communications equipment and, critically, a cross-border WiFi zone that extends to the city of Aleppo, the commercial hub of Syria just 23 miles from Turkey, could greatly aid the opposition’s resistance. Covert action takes two to tango: Let the Syrian opposition tell us what it needs. Washington shouldn’t be more “virtuous” than the people dying. Even the unthinkable — Western military action — has become more likely because of Libya. If the Sunni-Alawite sectarian split in Syria worsens, it’s not that hard to imagine a scenario in which Sunni Turkey will be forced to provide a refugee haven across the Syrian border. A NATO-backed no-fly, no-drive, no-cruise zone could follow. And the realignment of Turkey, which under the Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been seriously flirting with Damascus and Tehran, back toward Europe and the United States would also be a blessing for the region.

Read the whole thing here.

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