Analysis: Syria options dwindling
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius listen during a meeting of the "Friends of the Syrian People" at the MFA Conference Center July 6, 2012 in Paris, France.
July 7th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Analysis: Syria options dwindling

By Elise Labott

When the Friends of Syria group began meeting this year, first in Tunis and again in Istanbul, there was a sense of possibility. Perhaps the group would endorse military action against Syria. Maybe they would recognize the Syrian National Council as the legitimate opposition group.

Six months in, the allure has worn off. At their third meeting in Paris, there were no expectations any decisions would be made, except for who would host the next meeting.

Calls were made for tougher sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, even though most countries which had any business with Syria have already imposed tough measures to no avail.

The group did endorse a transition plan hatched last week in Geneva. The document endorses a Syrian-led transition as part of the peace plan designed by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. The fact that the plan, which provides for an interim government, has no relation to the current reality on the ground or that it had no input from either the Syrian regime or the opposition - the two parties which would have to implement it - didn't seem to be nearly as important as the fact that Russia and China went along with it.

In lieu of an agenda, there was plenty of blame in Paris to heap on Russia and China. Offering her harshest rebuke of Moscow and Beijing to date, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on each leader present at the meeting to demand that Russia and China "get off the sidelines."

"I don't believe Russia and China believe they are paying any price at all, nothing at all for standing up on behalf of the Assad regime," Clinton said.

The longer the conflict drags on, the tougher Clinton's rhetoric on Russia becomes.

By placing the blame squarely on Russia and China, Clinton and others are able to delude themselves that diplomatic efforts can end the conflict with the main goal of getting Assad out. But in their heart of hearts they know even the most detailed roadmap of a post-Assad Syria has no hope of changing the military balance on the ground enough so that the Syrian military, Assad's inner circle, and Moscow see Assad as a sinking ship and abandon him.

Diplomats in New York are already at work on a new U.N. Security Council resolution endorsing the Annan plan and imposing sanctions on the regime if it fails to implement it. The resolution would be under Chapter 7, which has the implied threat of military action.

But this, too, is a mirage. Privately, U.S. and other western officials recognize they are spinning their wheels. They know there is no chance the Assad regime would implement the Annan plan without a credible military threat and they also know that the appetite for international military action is, well, nonexistent.

Since the conflict in Syria began, the international community has had many excuses for inaction: the lack of a credible opposition, Russian intransigence and the fear of further militarizing the conflict. The need to give Annan's peace plan time to work was just the latest justification.

Riad Seif, a prominent businessman and former member of parliament who recently left Syria and is now a member of the opposition, gave voice to what many Syrians are feeling about the futility of the "Friends of Syria" exercise when he asked the group to make its friendship actually mean something.

"After so many conferences, we fail to see how we have so many friends and people are dying every day," he told the group during a fiery address. "Help us put an end to this massacre."

soundoff (236 Responses)
  1. Alanna Iyo

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    July 15, 2015 at 10:36 am | Reply
  4. michael

    We're not 'spinning our wheels'

    we DON't CARE. There's a difference. Let someone else protect the syrians.

    July 10, 2012 at 10:13 am | Reply
  5. yuri pelham

    Syria would be better as a Russian protectorate. We have to recolonize the Arab world as it is obvious their attempt at self rule has been a colossal failure.

    July 10, 2012 at 10:08 am | Reply
  6. jim

    I look forward to the day this woman is put in the ground right next to Cheney Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Paulson, Prince, Silverstein, Zakhiem, Rockefellar, Rothschild, etc. etc. of the globalists. Drawn and quartered would be nice.

    July 10, 2012 at 8:57 am | Reply
  7. ivar

    "Help us put an end to this massacre." Then tell your rag-tag army to stop fighting Assad. Let Annan do his work. Hilary is arming the insurgents and is wringing her hands, blaming the chinks and the Ruskies, when she is the one to blame for using this rag-tag coalition to effect regime change in Syria. Get real!

    July 10, 2012 at 7:24 am | Reply
  8. blessedgeek

    Does Hillary look like the evil Queen or the fairy godmother to the Syrians?

    July 10, 2012 at 3:33 am | Reply




    Military Defections Erode Al-Assads power in Syria

    July 10, 2012 at 2:03 am | Reply


    July 10, 2012 at 2:02 am | Reply
  11. Bob Brown

    Gotta wait until October to intervene, no matter how many Syrians get killed in the mean time.

    July 10, 2012 at 1:39 am | Reply
  12. CharlieSeattle

    Let them kill each other...

    Syria will send fewer fanatics to screw with Iraq.
    Syria will send fewer fanatics to screw with Afganistan.
    Syria will send fewer fanatics to screw with Isarel., how is that a bad thing?

    July 10, 2012 at 1:04 am | Reply
    • revelations 13:7

      Israel is led by a bunch of fanatics.... fanatics who've got their paws rammed right up Obombya's cornhole, makin him dance, sing, and declare war at whim

      July 10, 2012 at 1:37 am | Reply
    • yuri pelham

      When a terrorist state like Syria, Iran's buddy, is utterly destroyed it's a good thing.

      July 10, 2012 at 10:02 am | Reply
  13. Malcolm in Korea

    The military balance IS changing (increasingly sophisticated military responses from the Free Syrian Army) and the Russians HAVE indicated their lack of confidence in the Assad regime with the recent face saving claims (they are seeking to loosen the asssociation in the public mind of their govt. with Assad)reported on CNN that they will not be supplying "new" weaponary...more patience than that of a "generation X teenager" is required here.....this is not a video game! There will be a bloody end, as the weaponary supplied by Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, increasingly swing the battles on the street towards the FSA.... who have a "buffer zone" inside Turkey and parts of Lebanon and control increasing swathes of countryside.... they cannot produce a "knock out" miitary victory at the current point yet their activities are progressively "white anting" Assad's regime

    July 10, 2012 at 12:39 am | Reply
    • Bob

      True – it is a standard insurgent strategy, particularly when they have a local power backing them ( ie: Turkey ). After all – it is exactly why the US cannot win in Afghanistan against the Taliban, no matter how much we expend in lives and cost, and regardless of our cross border attacks ( drones at this time ). There is one glaring distinction however – we cannot destabilize Pakistan for fear of its nuclear capability falling into the wrong hands. Assad however can choose at any time to destabilize Turkey – after all they have a significant Kurdish ( sectarian ) population which has been brutally suppressed over the decades ( Indeed US government estimates place the number of Kurds killed by Turkish military action in the near to mid past at ~ 30 000. Not much is made of it here perhaps as they are our ally or the journalist just do not want to report it. ). In such case the whole region could blow up – a very dangerous game is being played.

      July 10, 2012 at 9:33 am | Reply
      • Steve Powell

        Very good point about Turkey and the Kurds. Also do not forget that the self rightous Turks still have not admitted to slaughteriing millions of Armenians. It did not happen.

        If anything the attempts at diplomacy have maded the problem more difficult. The inner circle know they have nowhere to go. We all saw what happend in Libya and Egypt. If you do not give a despot an out, like a cornered opposum he will just get meaner. Someone will just have to decide to accept the status quo or use violence. Then it comes down to is it in our strategic interest to invervene.

        What is ironic is the country with the means to put Assad a way is the hated Israel. They have the local force and doctrine that if they chose, they could be in Damascas in a week. Imagine the Arab world rooting for an Isaraeli invasion of Syria. Perhaps they could do a quid quo pro and drop the entire west bank issue if they took out Assad in exchange. But Hillary is too narrow minded to think outside the box.

        July 10, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  14. Biggg


    J u l y 8 , 2 0 1 2 , 1 : 3 1 p . m .

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    The line of Range Rovers BMWs Porsche roadsters and one gleaming cherry red Ferrari began queuing outside of Revlon Ch ai rm an R ona ld P er elm an s estate off M on t auk Highway long before R om ne y arrived as ca m pai gn aide s and staf fer s in white polo shirts emblazoned with the logo of Pe re lma ns property the Creeks checked off names under tight secur ity

    July 9, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Reply
    • CharlieSeattle


      July 10, 2012 at 1:06 am | Reply
    • Motambo Mteke

      What you mean? No one unerstan. You no write clear. Mambo fisi.

      July 10, 2012 at 8:32 am | Reply
  15. Biggg


    July 9, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Reply
  16. JZ

    And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword. Revelations 6:4

    July 9, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Reply
  17. revelations 13:7

    how's that military-industrial complex working out for you america? proving itself hard to maintain without a constant series of wars, eh? we sell the old weapons to comparatively weaker countries and test the new ones on em

    July 9, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Reply
  18. Onikami

    islam is a religion. like christianity, it has fanatics. there are christian terrorists too. no side is innocent in this except people who have the common sense too live and let live. i'm an atheist and all i see is people with jingoism because this or that person don't believe in the same thing. islamic and christian and other fanatics will never stop until they impose their will upon everybody else. this is the way of religion and governments. I DARE YOU TO TRY AND CHANGE THIS. your video will be next.

    July 9, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Reply
    • blessedgeek

      Do you know that Assad and his fellow Alawites are not considered Muslims by Sunnis and even many Shiites? Do you know that the Alawites celebrate Christimas, hold masses, honour Christian saints, and believe that the death of Jesus was necessary for the remission of sins? They do not believe in the finality of the prophethood of Mohammed. The Alawites are a mix of Christianity and Islam and some remnant paganism.

      July 10, 2012 at 3:44 am | Reply
  19. boehnersux

    One thing for d-mn sure, a military intervention by the US will only lead to a wider war. Surely, we learned something from the Iraq invasion.

    July 9, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Reply
    • pozin

      I hope we learned our lesson. We go in and the people we liberate end up shooting at us. I do not know if it is their ideology, upbringing, or culture, regardless I do not want to waste one American life nor waste more money that we do not have. Let the Saudis bankroll this.

      July 9, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Reply
      • Tarek

        Don't talk nonsense you didn't liberate Iraq you completely destroyed Iraq. If America was interested in liberating they drop a bomb on the presidential palace and leave.

        July 19, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  20. Curiositykilledthecat

    So the question posed- Is the Syrian "opposition" the same "weekend warriors" who crossed the Syrian/Iraqi border to engage U.S. troops in Iraq?- or do they fall on the side of Damascus and Tehran? CNN hasnt been nice enough to say ( to my knowledge), does the terror network of islamic extreamist have a foothold in Syria??

    July 9, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Reply
    • mousethatroared

      Let Syria handle its own civil war. If Russia wants to do nothing or intervene, more power to them. If China wants to do nothing or intervene, more power to them. If Turkey wants to do nothing, or intervene, more power to them. I do not think that any Syrian government will support the US, so why care about them!

      July 9, 2012 at 7:51 pm | Reply
  21. BLM



    July 9, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Reply
    • dogface

      You might want to unlock your CAPS key. Assad is just trashing his own country. Let him do it. How do we know the opposition is any better? Let Russia intervene if they want as they have a port they use in Syria.

      July 9, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Reply
    • revelations 13:7

      too many war-glorifying video games and movies methinks.... America's foreign policies are akin to a video game; they way we set up, go in, and turn these countries into little puppet colonies for the US, it's sickening, and they're able to do it by playing off the emotions of the docile, non-thinking people of this country

      July 9, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Reply
  22. BLM




    July 9, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Reply
  23. Grog Says

    No flea zone.
    Grog make joke, ha ha.

    July 9, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Reply
  24. RyRoe08


    July 9, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Reply
  25. cj

    The US is 'spinning its wheels' trying to police the world. Bring all the boys home and let the world police itself.

    July 9, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Reply
    • dogface

      I concur. Let the Syrian civil war rage on. The US can stay on the sidelines. Why get involved? What is their to gain?

      July 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Reply
      • revelations 13:7

        corporate profit, another central bank in the world to throw another country's citizenry into debt bondage... we'll bulldoze Assad's palaces and build wal-marts, mcdonalds, and starbucks on top of the rubble

        July 9, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • theend

      cj, are you still under the illusion that the US is the worlds policeman, it is the worlds bully, bent on world domination. If the usa can't buy them, bribe them, then we bomb them, that is the facts.

      July 9, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Reply
    • Ben

      i agree. The whole yellow-journalism tenor of the article is disgusting. And, if we were dumb enough to get involved, all CNN would do is who the babies killed while we fought Assad.

      July 9, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
    • flasteve2000

      It is the cold war all over again.And yet our gov't has been trying to downplay it,and turn it into something else--its all about upstaging Russia/China,but mainly Russia.It's about who has political clout in the Middle East.We forced Russia out of Europe,now comes Asia.Isn't it apparent,when every country we target is a ,or once was a Russian ally?

      July 9, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Reply
    • JohnnyAnonymous


      Agreed 100%. Why the U.S. feels so inclined to stick their noses into everything is beyond me.

      July 9, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Reply
      • realist_drib

        @ outsiders, not every north american shares the same view, i dont belive we should be involved in anyones business. we should be taking care of our backyard not our neighbors.

        July 9, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
  26. Curiositykilledthecat

    Aside from all the Islamphobia comments, i agree with most of what was said, but the fact remains as long as fanaticism (whether Muslim or American Racism) overminds education, larger conflict is sure to come! Pakistan has shunned it's co-Nobel Prize winner- majority of Americans ( christians) are ready for another Crusade. My advice; stop looking for god in anceint text and look in a physics book, then we can go back to fighting over territory, riches, glory, ect.

    July 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Reply
  27. Justin

    Just remember how many lives it took to gain our own freedom over 200 yrs ago... We asked for help and got it. Why should we deny those that are asking for help to be free from this regime? After we were freed from the British Crown, we didn't know our own course, but we created it and went on. Sure there's been mistakes along the way. It happens. Tens and Tens of thousands fought for our freedom, so let them enjoy that small luxury in life.

    July 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Reply
    • Anthony

      The French (and the Spanish and thr Dutch for that matter, we tend to forget that they helped us too) did not help us out of teh goodness of their hearts. Or out of any ideological reason - after all, the Spanish and French at the time were absolte monarchies with only the barest of checks on royal perogative (the Dutch were a merchant republic with an hereditary stadtholder). They did it because it was n their interest. France wanted some measure of revenge after the disaster of the 7 Years War and to break the America's away from the British empire. The Spanish wanted Gibraltar and Florida back, and to safeguard their holdings in the Carribean. The Dutch wanted to harm British naval power and to open up trade with the Americas.

      Where exactly is the US interest here? I see precious little.

      July 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Reply
      • Bob

        Correct as well. It was a proxy war, just as we now see in Syria. For example the French noted a chance to stretch British militarily at the time, bleed them, and perhaps to visit them a strategic loss, and they did.

        July 9, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  28. FHTEX

    We're actually not spinning our wheels ... we have armed the opposition to the teeth. The problem is that the opposition Islamists and Al Qaeda types have little support in Syria. If we'd just leave the country alone (and a host of others as well), it would do just fine.

    July 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Reply
    • Bob

      Correct. In otherwords we have contributed to the death toll in an almost purely sectarian war for frankly our own geo political interests, just as Russia and China have opposing geopolitical interests and have thus taken opposing actions. In all of this there is scant real concern for the civilians. Saudi Arabia's involvement is for me a red flag given their probable involvement with Al Quaida at the time of 9/11 – supported by the fact that the US has strangely been careful to not investigate that connection. Finally, as for Hillary's 'moral' stance, I find it hard to forget that she voted for the Iraq war ( attack on a country for contrived reasons ) without even bothering to read the intelligence docs at the time ( she admitted it ) – that is hardly the act of a person who has great respect for human life ( our soldiers, other civilians ) I think.

      July 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Reply
    • Syrian

      You are right.
      Today the terrorists kidnapped 200 children in Northern Aleepo; they are surrounding one police station; they are threatening the Army to kill the children if they send back up for that station.

      so do you believe these people want freedom or ???????????

      Man Syrian people will fix the problem themselves with no need to any help from outside

      July 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Reply
      • Ray Gray

        The U.S.A. should stay out of this dispute, but continue to buy Oil, Opium, in trade for IED's and WMD which we can barter for camel dung and goat feces which is better tasting than MRE's. I also want to say that lately I have been finding pieces of rock in my Arab vittles!

        July 9, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
      • flasteve2000

        wrong-Syria will still get help from CIA,MI6 and Turkish terrorists-you couldn't do it alone.Not a chance.

        July 9, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  29. ron

    Of course we are spinning our wheels, just as the rest of the world in this matter. This is an Arab problem in an Arab world. It is there problem and we should really only make a strong judgement depending on how the Arab community handles it. THe USA, China, Russia, Europe, etc should not have any say it what happens there. If we don't like it, don't do business with them or anyone who is in a position to stop it (Arab countries) but don't. We will get much better results and be able to hold our heads up. We really need to start addressing the middle east problem in a responsible way, not with boots on the ground, but with financial detachment (in all ways) with those that permit these atrocities to continue in their backyards.

    July 9, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Reply
  30. jayon

    whos cares about syria..let him kill as much people as he want...we already lost enough troops in the last 10 years!!! Anyways were most likely going to war with iran with the path iran is going with the nuclear programs

    July 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Reply
  31. Descarado

    America does not need to waste any more lives or money in another Islamic garbage dump.

    These woman-stoning Neanderthals have nothing in common with women's rights, universal suffrage or Western democracy.

    This is not out neighborhood. Let the Islamo-fascists take out their own garbage.

    July 9, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Reply
    • Descarado

      -our neighborhood...

      July 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Reply
    • ron


      July 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Reply
    • jayon

      you are 100 percent right....let these muslims killers take care of themselves...

      July 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Reply
    • Jersey Joe

      We need to keep our noses out of this. Hillary, come home...take care of Bill. We cannot interfere in these Moslem countries just because they treat women differently than in our culture. It's none fo our business.

      July 9, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Reply
    • flasteve2000

      agreed--will the White House listen to the people,though?Or will they fulfill their own foreign agendas?

      July 9, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Reply
  32. southernwonder

    i dont see why we should be encouraging assad's fall when it was certain the price in human lives was/is going to be high. i am sure none of those who got killed or hurt, or their families, as a result of our policy of removing assad would be ok with it. israel seems to be sitting pretty but it is a foregone conclusion hillary feels obligated to and pressured by this lobby when she goes around advocating a blood bath in syria.

    July 9, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Reply
  33. Curiositykilledthecat

    Anyone think that instead of calling for help from the allies of WWII and sparking old soviet aggression we should let the Middle East (established culturally long before England, Russia, ect.) handle it internally! -as in no Caucasians?

    July 9, 2012 at 11:55 am | Reply
    • duckforcover

      We (Americans) are making enemies faster than we can kill them.

      July 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Reply
  34. clearick

    The US could go into Syria and spend $ on troops and material. Using the UN is a bad idea since neither Russia or China will support any action and use their veto to stop any attempt. NATO can go in, but this would make Turkey the dominant nation and the West doesn't trust Erdogan.

    NATO should initiate a no-fly zone and prevent Iran and Russia from supplying more arms. Let the free Syrian people develop a strategy to force Assad out of power.

    As long as the US is unwilling to act, along with their allies, Iran will continue to maintain control. The Muslim world is at war, and neither side is really worth supporting.

    July 9, 2012 at 11:49 am | Reply
    • Curiositykilledthecat

      So how long should the nations of the world focus on these shadow wars of the powers that be?- i was under the impression that war (no matter who's revolution) was a diplomatic failure at best- America called on France, Assad calls on Russia, Wars were better when met with sword in sheild in open feild!- correct?

      July 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Reply
    • mousethatroared

      I agree that neither side in the Syrian civil is worth supporting. Please recall Hillary Clinton back home, have her work on her Spanish, and have her work on US/Latin American relations.

      July 9, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Reply
  35. dust in the mouth

    Syria – Assad going Crazy – 2012


    July 9, 2012 at 11:27 am | Reply
    • Aaron Chaney

      Covetousness is a sin. Translation: Tunisia only has received proper remuneration during the so-called Arab Spring because they are an original. All the rest i.e. Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and yes Syria, are all covetous copycats.

      July 9, 2012 at 11:43 am | Reply
  36. dust in the mouth


    July 9, 2012 at 11:27 am | Reply
  37. BBS




    July 9, 2012 at 11:10 am | Reply
  38. Thomas Henley

    While may flag soluting Americans take umbrage with the notion, the plain fact is Washington has a credibility problem when it comes to the causi belli for wars. Americans have been decieved in times past and many are aware of it, while internationally there is no reason for other nations to pretend we haven't been caught red handed manufacturing pretexts for war.

    Shadowy violent opposition groups with no clear leadership, chain of command or statements of idealogy or intent are not the kind of groups I'd hitch my wagon too just for the sake of ousting a long standing leader who is lukewarm to the West on a good day, and adamant against it on most.

    This is one American sick of gunboat diplomacy and I'm sure those outside of America are even more tired of it than many of us in America are.

    It's an embarassment, and our attempts to bully and intimidate yet another lawful government into folding up shop establishing too clear of a pattern of what our founders and most Americans never intended or want America to be.

    July 9, 2012 at 11:07 am | Reply
  39. BBS


    Car bomb in a funeral procession Zamalka Syria


    July 9, 2012 at 11:05 am | Reply
  40. BBS


    July 9, 2012 at 11:05 am | Reply
  41. robot

    BLA- Thanks for stating the obvious. Quite enlightening. None of us knew this information.
    Now I believe this is where you state an opinion. Do you happen to have one?

    July 9, 2012 at 11:00 am | Reply
  42. pbernasc

    BS .. the reason there is no intervention is that one truly democratically elected President with strong religious political basis(Egypt) is enough for the time being in the region. , at least in the eyes of the West.
    Russia and China help covering this up as a diplomatic issue .. in reality nobody wants Syria going where Egypt is because that would make it into a very clear Iranian expansion opportunity. No need to give the Iranians one more country after having hand them over Iraq (thank you GOP)

    July 9, 2012 at 10:36 am | Reply
  43. Dylan


    July 9, 2012 at 10:26 am | Reply
  44. BLA

    The United Nations has said more than 10,000 people have been killed since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011. What started as peaceful protests against the regime spiraled into a bloody government crackdown and armed uprising.

    July 9, 2012 at 9:40 am | Reply
  45. BLA


    July 9, 2012 at 9:39 am | Reply
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