The international community’s efforts to halt the widespread bloodshed in Syria have long been futile. That tragic trend continued Wednesday as a possible truce broke down.
So how can the U.S., along with other well-intentioned nations, help speed the end of the carnage — and of the brutal regime of President Bashar al-Assad — while facilitating a positive new beginning for that nation’s long-suffering people?
The wrenching Syrian saga has been obscured recently by troubling revelations about when the Obama administration knew that the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was a planned terrorist assault — and why it said otherwise for more than a week.
But the Syrian civil war remains a high-stakes challenge. Wednesday initially brought mildly encouraging news that the Syrian government and assorted rebel leaders had agreed to a four-day cease-fire during the upcoming Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday.
Then Jabhat al-Nusra, a rebel militia group, announced that it would refuse to honor the proposed truce, which was scheduled to start Friday.
Yet the loss of what would have been merely a brief respite from the violence wasn’t the only troubling aspect of that story.
Though Assad’s tyrannical government clearly must be ousted after killing up to 30,000 of its own people since Syria’s “Arab Spring” revolt began 19 months ago, this chilling reality lingers: The fractured opposition forces include Islamic extremist groups affiliated with al-Qaida.
Those fanatics include Jabhat al-Nusra, which posted this message Wednesday in rejecting that cease-fire plan:
“There will be no truce between us and the prideful regime and shedder of the blood of Muslims. We are not among those who allow the wily to trick us, nor are we ones who will accept to play these filthy games.”
Syrians aren’t the only ones at risk from this conflict. Last Friday, a terror bombing in Beirut killed Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, head of the intelligence unit of Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces, and seven other people.
Lebanese officials logically suspect Assad’s goons were behind the attack: As The Wall Street Journal reported, Gen. Hassan “played a pivotal role, in early August, in uncovering an alleged plot by a pro-Assad Lebanese politicians to carry out a bombing campaign in Lebanon, allegedly at the behest of senior Syrian regime security officials.”
In other words, the Syrian violence isn’t confined to Syria.
Turkey knows that grim fact all too well. Syrian forces have shot down Turkish planes and fired across the border.
Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan each have absorbed at least 100,000 refugees from Syria.
And according to a Wednesday dispatch from the Global Post, an intelligence officer “a hill away from Syria” in Israel’s Northern Command said his nation is also increasingly wary of Syria’s internal crisis spilling across its border, explaining:
“We take into account every possible scenario — everything from a major military attack to a multi-focal incursion to a situation with civilians crowding the border. Also, the possibility that we may have to go inside Lebanon if we have to.”
Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sounded a similar warning: “Israel will do everything it takes to ensure Syria’s chemical weapons do not fall into the hands of terrorist organizations — and if such a situation arises, then Israel will weigh a military option ... The Israel Defense Forces will do what it needs to do.”
But what should the U.S. do?
Both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney said during Monday’s foreign-policy debate that they opposed using American military force in Syria. That’s obviously the prudent course. The last thing the U.S. needs is another military commitment.
Both candidates also said we must make sure, as the president put it, that in providing assistance to rebels “we’re mobilizing the moderate forces inside of Syria.”
Unfortunately, however, there’s nothing moderate about the growing humanitarian crisis in that war-torn nation.
And there’s nothing moderate about the daunting Syrian dilemma awaiting the winner of our presidential election.