'A Decisive Storm' in Syria soon?

'A Decisive Storm' in Syria soon?
The Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen has rekindled hope among Syrians for a possibility of a similar military coalition to intervene and end the war in their country.
4 min read
31 March, 2015
Syrian conflict has claimed thousands of lives and destroyed towns throughout the land [AFP/Getty]

After four years of futilely counting on the international community for intervention and help in removing the regime of Bashar al-Assad, Syrians came to the conclusion that the world abandoned them to face their fate alone.

While military support remains the subject of endless debates, bargaining, and conditions, all that Syrians can now expect is humanitarian aid - that too which continues to face hurdles.

But the Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen has rekindled all hopes and aspirations among some Syrians that a similar military coalition could be put together to intervene in their country.

Syrians hope an Arab or regional alliance, with Turkish participation, would be created to conduct airstrikes against Assad regime positions and impose a no-fly zone in Syria.

     The battle in Yemen is a prelude to a qualitative change in the way regional issues are dealt with - a move from containment to confronting it by force

This could allow opposition forces to quickly take Damascus, topple the regime and end four years of the Syrian ordeal that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and destroyed cities and towns throughout the land.

While the idea of such a coalition tickles the fancy of a majority of anti-regime Syrians, things on the ground look more complicated, mainly due to the different circumstances in the Syrian and Yemeni cases.

For instance, the Houthis in Yemen emerged without regional and international support; even Iranian support for them remains covert.

In Syria, Iran is overtly and directly involved through the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and proxies including Hizballah and Iraqi militias, not to mention its clear and public support for the Syrian regime.

The Syrian regime also receives strong support from a broader number of international and Arab powers compared to Yemen’s case, including Russia, China, Iraq and Algeria.

In effect, a number of Western powers also maintain channels of communication with the Assad regime, and recently, even the United States suggested it is not seeking to topple the regime but to reach a political settlement in Syria.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed spoke to a number of figures and analysts closely following Syrian affairs to get their opinion on this issue.

Syrian writer and opposition figure Fayez Sara told al-Araby al-Jadeed, "The battle in Yemen is a prelude to a qualitative change in the way regional issues are dealt with - a move from containment of the situation to confronting it by force."

Sara continued, "This change will manifest itself in the way the Gulf in general deals with developments in Syria and asserts its presence in resolving the Syrian crisis", adding that what happened in Daraa recently is a small-scale "rehearsal" for the coming Arab military shift.

Around four million people have fled Syria since start of conflict (AFP/Getty)

Commander of the opposition, Free Syrian Army (FSA) Ahmad Rahhal believes there is no need for a new Arab military alliance, saying the "same coalition leading the strikes in Yemen can do the same thing in Syria." 

This, Rahhal argued, "would limit the regime’s ability to move and harm the Syrian people, and allow the opposition forces to accelerate their efforts to topple the regime".

However, he also noted that this was all subject to the approval of the West and the United States, which he stressed is not happening yet.

Turkish political analyst Oktay Yilmaz echoed Rahhal’s views, but said it was unlikely that Turkey would take part in a regional coalition against the Syrian regime, unless "authorisation for military action is obtained from the United Nations" which "is difficult because of the Russian and Chinese vetoes."

Yilmaz, spoke of the "risks" involved in such a coalition, adding that he had discussed this issue with some Turkish officials, who told him the coalition was "an unrealistic idea".

Saudi commentator Jamal Khashoggi mentioned 'the Salman Doctrine' in reference to Saudi's King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, in a number of editorials. 

This doctrine, he claimed, is based on breaking free of the rule that no regional military alliance would be established without a "US blessing" and prior approval.

Khashoggi said the Saudi move, which broke this rule, could encourage other powers to do the same, especially Turkey.

The Saudi commentator recently tweeted that Operation Decisive Storm, led by his country, "could spread to Syria soon".

Some observers believe the creation of a joint Arab military force could be an alternative to military alliances in the region.

This force is ostensibly designed to counter risks to both the collective and individual Arab national security, including terror threats and other internal and external threats.

However, the exact function, size, armament type involved, and hence the force’s effectiveness and its mechanism of action and intervention are all issues that do not enjoy broad Arab consensus.

This is especially the case when action on the ground is concerned, evidently seen in the Syrian crisis.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.