|This tank captured by the FSA was festooned to mark Eid al-Adha|
Saudi media celebrity Jamal Khashoggi was back home in time for Eid al-Adha after a trip to the United States via Turkey. The think piece he penned in Arabic for today’s edition of pan-Arab al-Hayat sums up his impressions from the journey:
As I made my way across the campus of Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, for last Monday’s face-off on foreign policy between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, I was struck by 2,500-3,000 media people credentialed to cover the event and the amount of cable laid to broadcast it.
Each of the two presidential candidates sought to convince U.S. voters he was better qualified to lead America over the next four years.
Beleaguered Syria was hoping to feature at that third and final debate.
The debate’s theme was foreign policy, but the two candidates ended sparring over economic policies.
Syria got its share with President Obama declaring he was “mobilizing the moderate forces inside Syria” and Romney professing Iran was backing Syria because “it’s their route to the sea.”
The debate left me downbeat.
How would Obama identify the “moderates” amongst the insurgents so he can mobilize them, or allow others to do so, if he were to win the November 6 vote?
Had Obama asked for my opinion, I would have said: All Syrian revolutionaries are moderates; so back them first and then exclude the ones who prove to be extremists.
Warning: Graphic footage in al-Qusayr Field Hospital
VICE commissioned renowned photojournalist and videographer Robert King to embed on the front lines with the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo. War-zone chaos ensued. In this episode, Assad forces hit Al Qusayr with a rocket attack while Robert is filming - it was targeted directly.
As regards Romney, Syrians would have to wait until he is inaugurated in January and familiarizes himself with the region’s map and its geopolitics before outlining his Syria roadmap.
Damn the deadly terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya in which the American ambassadors and three other Americans were killed.
The assailants harmed the Syrian people’s cause by making the attack a political football in the presidential campaign and turning U.S. public opinion against the Arab Spring.
Romney, for instance, seized on the outrage in Benghazi to speak of “a dramatic reversal in the kind of (Arab Spring) hopes we had for that region.”
A Turkish journalist also emphasized the weight of public opinion to me last week during my Istanbul stopover. We were both participating in a panel discussion behind closed doors on the situation in Syria.
The Turkish journalist said, “The Arabs want Turkey to do everything. But they have to help Prime Minister (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan galvanize Turkish public opinion, which doesn’t want a war. Turks are enjoying unprecedented prosperity. They fear losing it if the country slipped into armed conflict.”
The Turkish journalist went on, “What would help Erdogan win public opinion support for intervention, for example, is to see the Saudis and Qataris deploying squadrons of their warplanes to an airbase in southern Turkey. Such a move would send a clear signal to the Turkish public that their government is not in it on its own.”
The prevailing view in the panel discussion was that without U.S. cover, which could only come after November 6, Ankara wouldn’t go it alone and intervene militarily in Syria.
Turkey could create a no-fly zone (NFZ) over northern Syria. Effectively, the NFZ would prevent flights over the whole of Syria for geographical reasons. Safe havens in northwest Syria, which is already under rebel control, would follow automatically. They would accommodate hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Syrians.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) could then proceed to challenge airpower-starved regime forces all the way to Damascus. The regime has already lost the deterrence of its chemical weapons. These have reportedly been placed under full Russian control, with Russian assurances to Washington and its western partners. At the same time, a joint American-British rapid intervention task force was sent to Jordan to monitor the secured chemical weapons sites.
Once the regime’s airpower is “neutralized,” the insurgents would have no need for Stingers and other MANPADs. Instead, they would call for anti-tank missiles, which the Americans can approve at no cost to U.S. taxpayers since donators are at the ready.
Most Syria watchers concur that limited intervention can swiftly settle the battle for Syria and prevent the conflict from festering and becoming a fertile breeding ground for al-Qaeda. But they failed to sway the international community and Syria’s neighbors, who still prefer to wait and see the outcome of the U.S. election or maybe something else.
The best that can be done meantime is to appeal to brave partisans to help Syrians avoid living through another Feast of Sacrifice such as this one.
Omar Offendum, a Syrian-American hip-hop artist born in Saudi Arabia, raised in Washington DC and living in Los Angeles, release this single “#Syria” in March