A White House spokesman says President Obama is considering sending humanitarian aid to Syrians, while at the same time ramping up pressure against President Bashar Assad. Growing sectors of the Syrian population have mounted demonstrations against the Assad regime, sparking violent government crackdowns resulting in thousands of deaths. The U.S. and several Gulf countries have closed their embassies and recalled their diplomats. We discuss the next steps in the region.

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and senior director for policy planning of the State Department under George W. Bush
Cole Bockenfeld, director of advocacy for the Project on Middle East Democracy
Hisham Ahmed, professor of politics at St. Mary's College of California
Mahmoud Khattab, medical doctor and chairman of the Syrian American Council

  • Wayne

    Applying logic: Assad won’t step down. The protesters won’t back down. There are effectively two countries. So why not, in order to avoid a worsening civil war, partition Syria into two countries, one for Assad and his thugs, and one for a free Syria.

    I suspect this simple idea is a non-starter, because the Pentagon has a plan for regime change across of string of Middle Eastern countries, including Syria, Egypt, and Tunisia, and it is attempting to accomplish that covertly through a “revolution consultancy” called CANVAS, formerly Otpor.

  • Brianrockwell71

    Aren’t we running the risk of picking sides in a regional sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shias? The U.S. has turned its back on Bahrain’s Shias to avoid alienating a repressive Sunni minority regime that rules Bahrain, as well as alienating our allies in Sunni Saudi Arabia. Now, we are encouraging tough action against the Alawi Shias who rule a very diverse Syria (74% Sunni; 16% Shia; 10% Christian). We are being selective in our outrage at best, and hypocrital at worst.

  • Jim

    Why is it that hardly anybody is talking about the tribal and secular (sunni vs shia) aspects of the situation in Syria?  It’s like talking about the Time of Troubles in Northern Ireland without mentioning religion!  E.g., when Assad talks about “his people,” why is it a given that he considers the shia “his people,” as opposed to a bunch of folks that he needs to keep passive and cowed?

    • Flubber

      Because there is no sectarian division in Syria and there never has been.  Syrians are those who live in Syria.  The same ethnic divisions that were amplified in other Arab nations thanks to outside influence are not at play in Syria because Syrians are too proud and, more importantly, too smart for that.

      The violence is being instigated by Western powers.  Or do you think Al CIAda is still a bunch of cave dwellers who hate us for our freedom?

  • Russia and China did a huge favor for America. They stopped us from getting involved in another pointless war to “change” the Middle East. We should thank them.

    In 2001 it was the neocons invading Iraq to “change” the Middle East. Now it is the Neoliberals wanting to invade Syria to “change” the Mddle east.

    You do not change thousands of years of war with another war. That is like wanting to end baseball in New York by having a baseball game in New York.

    Thank you Russia. Thank you China. I will keep following the 12-stap program you have begun for me.

    • $7455041

      it is a shame that you think that way. There are innocent people getting killed in Syria daily by a ruthless dictator who is supported by Russia and China to continue the slaughter. Giving Assad the licence to continue the murder is not a favor for anyone. No on wants to “invade”  Syria. What the words needs is to stop the murder- stop the genocide. Maybe you think that way because you have no idea what it  is being bombed day in and day out. Russia and China took this type of action because they have no regards for human rights and they do this to their own people if they protest. 

      • Sergio

        I’m sorry to hear that so much misery and death is occuring in Syria. But, the solution is not to create more death and misery by killing more people. I think the best solution is for countries around the world to voluntarily open their borders to the syrian people and help them begin anew.  

      • utera

        How innocent are these people, we don’t know.  How many extremists are there, on what side, what groups fighting for what?  You have no idea either.  Many groups are fighting for the freedom…to kill for their own group or religious ideas, you can’t be so sure you are on the side of right. You are potentially setting off a yugoslavia type situation, but well what does it matter, you personally won’t be there for the consequences.

        • $7455041

          of course we know who they are- they are regular citizens of Syria- no special categorization is required, no one wants 40 years of corrupt dictatorship-  the opposition represents the vast majority of Syrians- I know many Syrians and my parents were born in Syria so i know more than you can imagine about Syria and the opposition- and it is nothing more than average citizens who want their freedom and dignity. they peacefully protested and were met by insane brutality- shame on Russia and China for siding with dictatorships all over the middle east and on the hypocritical people, on the right and left, who abandoned their principles and consistently sided with dictatorships vs. the will of the people.

          • You say that without anything to back it up.

            I’m sure you will go there personally to police the results.

            Yea right..  

    • utera

      Yea pretty much this is a quagmire some people instigated.  Look where the egyptian uprising went, straight to islamist parties winning elections, calls for oppressing minorities, and of course killing of christians.  

      Syrias mix of minorities would make the situation far far worse.

      In any case there is plenty of hypocrisy to go around.  Iran turkey and iraq all occupy kurdish land, I guess we should be funneling cash and weapons to the pkk.  the turks have killed tens of thousands of civilians in their decades long conflict…and have even attempted cultural genocide, yet they are in nato and have the nerve to point fingers at other countries.  Its a farce. 

  • Armin

    Syria is surrounded by few countries around. Why can’t we make it impossible for all foreign aid to reach Syrian government by blocking all ground and air borders around Syria

    • MagnusT

      Maybe that wouldn’t work, considering Syria has a COASTLINE ALONG THE MEDITERRANEAN.

  • Mkabbesh

    the issue is whether the us can afford the expansion of iran to the mideteranean and the increased russian challenge in the area
    it is like do you want to help cut this arm of the enemy now or give time to gather strength and fight you

  • MediaWatcher

    Unfortunately Mr. Khattab repeated the unsubstantiated rumors about Iranian guards fighting Assad’s foes in the flashpoint cities.  A logical person would think about such claims and would see a much better approach to bring Arabic speaking and willing bodies from Lebanon.  As Rami Khouri, the great pundit suggested recently, people in Syria might be used to execute a grand strategy devised by US-Israel and funded by Saudi-Arabia/Qater to break Syria down to statelets.

  • Clark

    lopsided panel limits fuller understanding of the nature of the issues, divisions and causes of this conflict.  

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