Arab states, including American ally Saudi Arabia, have come out swinging — albeit verbally — against the Assad regime for using neurotoxin sarin gas to kill thousands of civilians. But talk is cheap. If the Arab League is sincere about not letting such crimes against humanity go unpunished, it will put its members’ money and military personnel where its mouth is.
Until Sunday, it was only President Barack Obama and the leaders of Britain and France who were publicly advocating military action against Syria to let President Bashar al-Assad and others of his ilk know there is a red line that cannot be crossed — without consequences.
Indeed, Obama drew the red line several months ago after there were unconfirmed reports of poisonous gas being used against the rebels seeking to overthrow the government. The civil war has been going on for more than two years, but Syria’s heavily armed security forces have succeeded in keeping Assad’s opponents at bay.
Although the United States has been arming the rebels, there is little indication that the government in Damascus is on the verge of collapse.
But Assad went too far with the recent chemical attack that caused the torturous death of more than 1,300 Syrians, including many women and children. The use of poisonous gas is a violation of international norms and must not go unpunished.
In recent weeks Obama’s advisers have talked about a surgical missile strike aimed at Syria’s military installations, and until last week it appeared a U.S. attack was imminent.
But the president is now seeking congressional approval for military action and there is no guarantee he will get it, especially in the Republican- controlled House of Representatives.
However, the dynamics of the situation would certainly change if Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Arab nations demonstrated through their actions that the resolution passed Sunday by the Arab League condemning Assad for the chemical gas attack is more than just a feel-good gesture.
The Arab states should not only agree to pay for the cost of whatever military action is decided upon, but they should also commit manpower and resources if the response leads to boots on the ground.
There is precedent for such involvement. In the 1991 Gulf War, a U.S.-led military coalition came to the rescue of the Kuwaiti royal family and drove Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein’s troops out of their country. More than 500,000 U.S. troops participated with all the necessary equipment.
The cost of the war to America was about $60 billion, which was covered by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Germany and South Korea.
The United States ended up absorbing $7 billion of the cost of the Gulf War.
The Assad government’s arrogant reaction to President Obama’s decision to seek congressional approval for military action certainly warrants a smack down from Syria’s Arab neighbors.
But there’s more to it than the evil acts of a maniacal leader. If Assad is allowed to get away with using chemical weapons, there will be no stopping other rogue nations, such as Iran.