Comment rester indifférent aux 93.000 morts de ces 2 dernières années
en Syrie? Le général Wesley Clark établit, dans l’article qui suit, un
parallèle convaincant entre la nécessité de ramener la paix en Syrie
aujourd’hui et en 1999 au Kosovo. « L’inaction n’est pas une option »,
affirme-t-il. Au Kosovo, 72 jours de bombardement avaient suffi à
faire capituler Milosevic.
A mon sens, une attitude résolue des Etats-Unis et de l’UE constituerait le meilleur gage pour la paix au
Proche-Orient. Et de manière plus générale, même si cela peut paraître
à priori contradictoire, ne peut-on pas inclure la force et la fermeté
parmi les instruments de la non-violence? Comme l’écrit le général,
« avec un dictateur aussi brutal que M. Assad, seule la conviction
qu’il ne pourra emporter la victoire le mènera à négocier son exit ».
The New York Times
June 17, 2013
To Get a Truce, Be Ready to Escalate
By WESLEY K. CLARK
FOLLOWING the Obama administration’s conclusion last week that
President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons, the
talk in Washington is all about military assistance to Syria’s rebels.
That aid is necessary, but observers have overlooked a crucial point:
the American decision to give rebels lethal aid, though it might
eventually contribute to the overthrow of Mr. Assad, opens an
opportunity for concerted diplomacy to end the bloodshed.
President Obama’s decision to supply small arms and ammunition to the
rebels is a step, possibly just the first, toward direct American
intervention. It raises risks for all parties, and especially for Mr.
Assad, who knows that he cannot prevail, even with Russian and Iranian
military aid, if the United States becomes fully engaged. We used a
similar strategy against the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in
Kosovo in 1999, where I commanded American forces, and showed that
NATO had the resolve to escalate. With a brutal dictator like Mr.
Assad, only the knowledge that he cannot prevail will force him to
negotiate an exit.
Mr. Obama has sought a diplomatic solution for some time, but has been
reluctant to take steps that might lead to military intervention.
Rightly so. No one wants more death and disruption in the Middle East,
nor another open-ended military commitment — and certainly not the
Pentagon. Despite the humanitarian tragedy in Syria, most of the
conditions that have allowed previous interventions to succeed are
absent. Legal authorization from the United Nations is unlikely, given
opposition from Russia and China. Syria’s rebels are fragmented
politically and militarily; some are religious extremists with
professed ties to Al Qaeda.
What would follow Mr. Assad’s departure is unclear, which is why he
has managed to retain support from Shiites and other minorities,
besides his own Alawite sect, who fear the consequences of a Sunni-led
takeover. Iranian agents, along with their allies from Hezbollah, are
involved, as are the Russians, who have a naval port at Tartus.
But inaction is not an option. The bloodletting — more than 90,000 are
estimated to have died so far — has deepened the region’s longstanding
Shiite-Sunni struggle. It has become a proxy war, with Sunni Arab
states backed by the West, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, challenging
Iran’s reach to the Mediterranean via a proxy, Hezbollah, and Syria.
The risk of going beyond lethal aid to establishing a no-fly zone to
keep Mr. Assad’s planes grounded or safe zones to protect refugees —
options under consideration in Washington — is that we would find it
hard to pull back if our side began losing. Given the rebels’ major
recent setbacks, can we rule out using air power or sending in ground
Yet the sum total of risks — higher oil prices, a widening war — also
provide Syria (and its patrons, Iran and Russia) a motive to
negotiate. If Mr. Obama can convince Iran that he is serious, and is
ready to back up his new promise of aid with additional forces, Iran
and Russia will know the risks: Mr. Assad could lose his regime, and
most likely his life. Higher oil prices would cost China, which has
blocked anti-Syrian initiatives at the United Nations, dearly.
In 1999 in Kosovo, the West used force as leverage for diplomacy.
There, a limited NATO air campaign began after diplomatic talks failed
to halt Serbian ethnic cleansing. The bombing lasted 72 days, and
plans for a ground invasion of Serbia were under way when Mr.
Milosevic finally bowed to the inevitable.
Of course, the Middle East is not the Balkans, the Russian government
is more confident now than it was then, and Americans are tired after
a decade of war. But there are similarities: The Kosovars, too,
bickered among themselves, and some were said to be terrorists. The
Russians backed Serbia — and at one point suggested that their naval
fleet in the Black Sea would intervene. Like Mr. Assad, Mr. Milosevic
was rational and calculating — he, too, wanted to survive.
Mr. Assad knows that Mr. Obama can be surprisingly resolute, as in his
approval of drone strikes and the military operation to kill Osama bin
Laden. While the United States begins to supply the rebels, there is a
crucial opening for talks. Russia or China could recalculate and help
lead Syria to a real peace process, as Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, a
former Russian prime minister, did in Kosovo in 1999. Iran could
emerge from a truce with Hezbollah’s power in Lebanon (and its strong
links to Iran) intact.
The formula for diplomacy is clear: a cease-fire agreement; a United
Nations presence; departure of foreign fighters; disarmament of Syrian
fighters; international supervision of Syria’s military; a peaceful
exit for Mr. Assad, his family and key supporters; a transitional
government; and plans for a new Syria.
The conflict, and the diplomacy needed to end it, are likely to play
out simultaneously. All parties will be recalculating their options
and risks, so any assurance Mr. Obama gives Americans that he will
limit our engagement would reduce the chances of success. This is a
nerve-racking time, but the consequences of inaction are too high.
Working together, America, Russia and China can halt Syria’s agony and
the slide toward wider conflict. Mr. Obama’s decision might be the
catalyst to get that done.
Wesley K. Clark, a retired Army general and former NATO supreme allied
commander for Europe, is a senior fellow at the Burkle Center for
International Relations at the University of California, Los Angeles.