The US and its allies have all but ruled out military action against Damascus despite their success in Libya because Syria’s opposition is less organized and faces a much stronger regime.
Analysts said the situation is far less conducive to foreign intervention in Syria, despite the the success of the NATO air campaign that weakened Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s defenses and helped Libyan rebels to reach the heart of Tripoli.
One analyst said that unlike in Libya, the allies would also face Arab opposition to military strikes in Syria, and warned that intervention carried the risk of triggering a broader regional conflict.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland all but ruled out allied military intervention in Syria if sanctions and diplomatic pressure fail to stop Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from using deadly force to crush protests.
The Syrian people “have chosen peaceful means to make their views known to their own government,” Nuland told reporters last week, adding they were following the paths of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
“So military action is not the preferred course of anyone, not the Syrian people, not the Arab or European or American members of the international community,” she said.
Nuland reiterated the US stance when asked whether rebel successes in Libya since the weekend would increase the pressure for intervention in Syria.
In France, which led the charge for military action in Libya, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said there would be no such intervention in Syria even if the rebel advances had what he called “significant consequences” for Damascus.
Anthony Cordesman, a security analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, said the allies did not have much of a military option in Syria.
“There’s no overt uprising to back, there’s no momentum behind the uprising. Your are talking about a country [Syria] with a real military machine, with a serious military capability, unlike Libya which is largely a facade,” he said.
“Until you see a real opposition develop in Syria, some kind of movement that has some credible reason to be backed, you can’t simply out of context attack Assad’s regime because it’s repressive,” Cordesman said.
“The scale of military operations that would be required [would be much higher than in Libya] and present far more risks of civilian casualties and collateral damage,” he said.
Radwan Ziadeh, a US-based Syrian dissident who has met US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, said the rebel successes in Libya will spur more calls within Syria for arming the opposition against Assad.
However, he warned that such a move risked sparking a civil war pitting Syria’s majority Sunni Muslims and other sects and ethnic groups against Assad’s minority Alawite sect.
“I think the situation in Syria and Libya is different because in Syria you have different ethnic and religious groups and if the uprising turns violent, [this] will lead Syria to a civil war,” he said.
He said he believes the US government understands the risk and “we share the same opinion on this issue.”