France has taken a bold first step in attempting to quell the dual onslaught in Syria of pro-Assad forces and ISIS which have led to the untenable refugee situation spilling out of its borders. The answer to this humanitarian crisis is not merely to welcome more refugees in Europe – although that is part of the solution.
I believe that all the moderate actors need to come together and undertake a multidimensional solution to stem this crisis. The first, obviously, involves providing immediate relief to those most in need of help. This means more funding for refugee camps and a greater concerted effort by Europeans and Middle Eastern states to welcome more Syrians fleeing death and persecution in their home land.
The second involves pursuing diplomatic channels, both to bolster a moderate Syrian oppositions (at least what’s left of it) and to exert diplomatic pressure on states buttressing the Syrian regime – notably Iran. Engaging Tehran over this issue, particularly with the mutual opposition to the ISIS, may not provide any immediate gains, but it must be part of a comprehensive solution. As of now, Assad’s grip on power rests almost solely on Tehran’s assistance. Engaging Iran at this crucial time is a necessary step, no matter how unlikely it is to produce results.
Finally, a military option cannot be discarded. France is right in taking initial steps to strike ISIS. The argument that ISIS is checking Assad’s power is nonsensical. Neither is a good solution, but ISIS and its indiscriminate killing fueled by a crazed ideology is clearly a greater threat to regional stability than Assad. An international coalition must step up its attacks agains ISIS before engaging Assad. And when I say international, I don’t simply mean Europe and the United States. Arab nations must take part in this effort, for ultimately they stand to gain the most from regional stability.
As a last note, I was pretty shocked that this story was only covered in a handful of english language publications. I had to look through a bunch of websites to find this story; my usual suspects (New York Times, New Yorker, FT, WP) did not even carry it. I think this is part of the problem, we, as an international community, need to get serious about this problem. Hoping that it will solve itself is no longer possible.
I applaud the French for their action. Hopefully this is but the first step in a much larger quest to address this issue head on!