- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 27, 2013


The Syrian regime took the opportunity while the international media fixated on Egypt’s instability to launch a series of brazen attacks against Damascus suburbs using a suspected nerve agent. The attacks have instilled vigor into the case for intervention in Syria (“Syria agrees to U.N. probe of purported chemical-weapons attacks,” Web, Aug. 25). Syria’s brutal internecine conflict has to date led to the deaths of more than 100,000 people and forced 2 million people to leave the country. Now, Syrians are forced to decide where their future interests lie — is it with the Assad regime or with the rebel forces?

If Western forces are to undertake a successful mission in Syria, it would be boosted by a humanitarian component that combines conventional military aid with educating rebel troops about internationally acceptable rules of engagement. It is critical that any support or aid offered by the United States or European Union member states is given on the condition that the rebels abide by internationally recognized conventions and treaties. The lack of trust that exists among Syrians will only be dispelled if Syrians have assurances that whoever gains the strategic upper hand is prepared to adhere to universally recognized standards of human rights and can guarantee their welfare and security. This must be clearly illustrated if rebel forces stand a chance of defeating Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces and persuading current Assad loyalists to switch sides.

The goal is to prove to Syrians of all faiths and ethnicities that anti-Assad forces are demonstrably acting to protect civilians and respect humanitarian law. Rebel forces should undergo education and training on how to engage with these tenets in mind. In the coming months, this would help to influence the balance of power — and in the longer term, help shape the future of Syria.


Non-resident associate

Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis

Rotterdam, Netherlands


Postdoctoral fellow

University of Texas at El Paso

El Paso, Texas

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