Nicholas Kristof writes: As things stand, we’re on a trajectory for Syria to become even more horrific than it is now. Many experts expect the war to drag on for years, kill hundreds of thousands more people, and lead to an exodus of millions more refugees. We’re likely to see street-to-street fighting soon in Damascus, lifting the suffering and emigration to a new level.
I’m shaken by pleas I’ve seen from women in the besieged Syrian city of Zabadani, which for months has been surrounded by forces supporting the government. They fear that if the government forces take Zabadani, there will be massacres.
So hundreds of women in Zabadani have signed a statement calling for a cease-fire, international protection and evacuation of the wounded. They bravely use their names, despite the risk that they will be murdered or raped if the city falls.
“I’ve never been so depressed,” said Emile Hokayem, a Middle East analyst and author of a book on Syria. “There were options early on. But the options today are all costlier, riskier and come with lower returns.”
Yet as long as we’re talking about Syrian dysfunction, let’s also note European and American dysfunction. The Obama administration has repeatedly miscalculated on Syria and underestimated the problem, even as the crisis has steadily worsened. And some leading Republicans want to send in troops to confront the Islamic State (think Iraq redux).
The least bad option today is to create a no-fly zone in the south of Syria. This could be done on a shoestring, enforced by U.S. Navy ships in the Mediterranean firing missiles, without ground troops.
That would end barrel bombings. Just as important, the no-fly zone would create leverage to pressure the Syrian regime — and its Russian and Iranian backers — to negotiate. [Continue reading…]