Many of Cordesman’s measures for a more robust military and diplomatic could serve these goals, but arming the few moderate rebels is too risky now. The jihadists could end up with such weapons plus the remnants of the Syrian army’s weapons—a jihadi perfect storm. Assuming the moderates can survive until Assad’s WMDs are removed from Syria, then it might be possible to undertake such an effort. However, by that time, the jihadi forces are likely to be even stronger than they are at present.
A broad coalition could be cobbled together in order to eliminate both the Assad regime and the jihadists. Coordinated NATO, GCC, and Russian/CSTO operations would do the trick, but this is probably a bridge too far diplomatically at this time. NATO would have to forego its aversion to cooperation with the CSTO, and Russia (and China) would be faced with acquiescing in the demolition of Iran’s Alawite ally, driving a wedge perhaps between Russia and its Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) co-leader, China, and SCO observer member, Iran. However, in time all sides may be faced with making such difficult strategic choices should the Syrian civil war become the crucible of the first truly Sunni jihadist state; one situated in the heart of the Middle East, on the edge of the Persian Gulf region, bordering NATO-member Turkey, and a few hundred miles from Azerbaijan and Russia’s North Caucasus.
Gordon M. Hahn is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a senior researcher/adjunct professor at MonTREP.
Image: Flickr/Israel Defense Forces. CC BY-NC 2.0.