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September 7, 2013

OU assistant director cautions against U.S. involvement in Syria

NORMAN — As President Barack Obama seeks approval from Congress for military intervention in Syria, University of Oklahoma assistant director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies Joshua Landis cautions against any U.S. action that would completely destroy the Assad government.

“There is no alternative. There is no one to step-in and stabilize the country if it were completely destroyed. Many citizens still rely on the Syrian government for services,” Landis said.

An expert on the Middle East with numerous articles and online publications as well as a daily blog on Syrian politics, Landis has consulted with state department and government agencies.

Although, initially a U.S. retaliation seemed imminent on Assad, Obama has since turned to Congress to authorize a strike for use of chemical weapons in Syria. Currently, Congress fractiously debates whether to authorize the limited military action Obama has proposed.

This past week, the Senate hosted several hearings to discuss a drafted resolution by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that would allow President Obama to order a limited military mission against Syria — not to exceed 90 days and not to involve troops on the ground.

After Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., opposed the proposition and said something other than cruise missile strikes should be used against Assad, the resolution was changed.

Landis said the new drafted proposal would require the president to change the balance of power in Syria, meaning he would have to help the rebels win over the government.

It is uncertain if such a hard strike against Syria would address what Landis said is a two-issue situation.

“What’s going on in Syria right now is really two issues: 1) that of Syrian civil war and 2) non-perforation of weapons,” Landis said. “If the president is going to act, he has to figure out how not to get sucked into a Syrian civil war while retaliating against Assad enough to be a deterrent.”

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