A meeting this weekend between U.S. President Barack Obama and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is expected to provide the latest signal for how the backers of the Syrian opposition intend to translate their verbal support into actions.
For now, the indications are not encouraging for the many opposition figures, activists and rebels who have sacrificed over the last three years to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
For nearly every condemnation of the behavior of the Assad regime that they hear from Western leaders and officials, they pick up a seemingly equal number of signs that no outside power is interested in offering the kind of help that would end the war.
It all translates into the inescapable conclusion that the Syrian people have been abandoned to their fate, which is to be on the receiving end of the regime’s massive firepower and its oppressive policies of imprisonment and torture, as well as the actions of Islamist extremists focused on imposing their ultraconservative version of Islam on the public.
The Syrian opposition’s backers claim that they want to see a political solution, because the conflict can’t be solved militarily. But if these countries intend to arrive at a political solution, they are neglecting the fact that the Syrian regime responds only to one thing – the credible threat of military force. By abandoning any serious form of military pressure on Damascus, the “friends of Syria” are giving Assad no reason to change his thinking or behavior, which means even more horrific destruction.
A policy of leading from behind, as some describe the Obama approach, means nothing more than abandoning the Syrian people to even worse horrors to come.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 25, 2014, on page 7.