Column by Alex Shaner
The conflict has spread beyond the borders of Syria, placing great burdens on the bordering nations such as Jordan and Turkey.
Starting as a civil war, the conflict is now resulting in a major regional situation that needs to be addressed.
Clearly, the United States and Western powers are bogged down in the United Nations Security Council without a clear path forward. Who can help?
The United States and the United Kingdom face tremendous domestic resistance to military engagements, and recent diplomatic efforts have not made a lasting impact upon reducing the conflict. NATO and the European Union, while considered have largely avoided direct involvement in the conflict except sending humanitarian aid. The crisis in Syria is beyond simply directing humanitarian aid. A meaningful dialogue is necessary to draw the conflict to a close and set the stage for future talks.
There still remains one regional organization.
The League of Arab States or the Arab League has the direct regional incentives to establish a clear dialogue to end the conflict.
The main question is, does the Arab League have the capacity to end the conflict?
Currently, I do not believe the Arab League has the will or the capacity to end the conflict. While the perfect regional actor to end the conflict, the divisions within the Arab League regarding a coordinated Syrian response show the internal factions in the league.
Turkey has been one of the most threatened and affected countries during this crisis. Could they appeal to the Arab League? Turkey is currently not a member of the Arab League (primarily due to its membership in NATO).
As an observing member, Turkey cannot vote nor voice its support or concerns on Arab League issues. So, the Arab League is missing a critical economic and regional power in the structure to ensure capacity to handle the issue.
Another factor, internal factions within the Arab League complicate the process. Some nations recognize the opposition as the legitimate government of Syria, while others nations do not outright condemn Assad’s hold on power.
For the Arab League to create regional support, internal issues between countries must be negotiated to present a unified set of declarations or policies in regard to Syria.
A unified goal, policies and recognition of oppositions forces in Syria will allow the Arab League to re-enter the conversation among regions or groups that can potentially solve the crisis.
The Arab League must involve the Turkish authorities in the process and internally unify on the Syrian conflict.
While these two solutions may seem simple, without them, the Arab League cannot play a significant role in solving the Syrian conflict.
A unified statement of support against Assad’s government and a request for increased powers to Turkey can aid the Arab League in solving this crisis. Without these factors, the Arab League will continue to avoid the conflict and find a regional response difficult if not impossible.
Shaner is a senior international relations and politics double major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org