Syria is in a civil war. Syria is on fire. There are many dead. Many refugees. Many in prison and previously tortured. The economy is destroyed. War-lords are emerging. Hatreds deepen daily.
What can be done by outside governments? Plenty, if there is a will.
1) All outside parties should retreat from their previous positions supporting one side or another. The priority is cease-fires, peace zones, de-escalation, support for negotiations, humanitarian support, elections and monitoring.
2) Humanitarian aid for the Syrian people must be increased both inside and outside Syria.
3) The immediate neighbors need to stop squabbling and engage in preventing outside fighters and weapons from entering the Syria. They should support Syrian citizen demands that all foreign combatants withdraw from Syria.
4) The regional neighbors Iran and Saudi Arabia need to stop their silliness. There are no major grievances between the two powers. Just adolescent competition over regional power. They are going to be neighbors for the next few thousand years, and yet they try to invent reasons to not get along. How about deal in which Saudi withdraws support for Bahrain Monarchy, and Iran pulls its support of Assad?
5) Sunni persecute Shiite in many countries. Sunni’s are 2nd class citizens in Iran and Iraq. Some Muslims insist on attacking each other. Muslims can begin by worshiping together everywhere. Muslims should go beyond “tolerance” to celebrate their diversity.
6) World powers need to work together to make the rule of law paramount in resolving conflicts. This means supporting non-proliferation and weapons abolition treaties. This means ending the race to militarily dominate outer space. This means ending support for illegal occupations. This means apologizing for past abuses that still feed mistrust. Some countries don’t even talk to each other. This means democratizing the UN Security Council.
7) Men cause and perpetrate most killing and suffering. After male domination for thousands of years, women leaders should be in the majority of most societies. Men need to end male supremacy and aggression. Most countries should drastically increase women political leadership and set a good example for Syria.
8) Any armed combatants or leaders who engaged in war crimes should be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.
9) A unifying proposition is needed to heal the country: “Anyone can be elected president of Syria,” is a good start. In addition, most Syrians and the world agree that Al-Nusra and the Baathists are not acceptable as long term rulers of Syria. But they must be able to contest for power through fair elections.
10) Retract diplomatic calls for Assad’s removal or retention with a plan for internationally monitored elections. Support internationally monitored elections conducted preferably by a transition government or less preferably by the current regime.
Additional Steps needed to be taken by various countries:
Turkey: stop persecution of journalists. End hostility with Kurds in Turkey and negotiate genuine autonomy.
Iraq: Share power with Sunnis. Do a grand bargain with the Kurds. Trade Kirkuk for sharing of the oil wealth with all of Iraq. Close borders to Syria of weapons and combatants.
Jordan: move away from feudalistic dictatorship and toward democracy.
Lebanon: Just hold on a best you can….and don’t catch fire yourself. 1 civil war is enough.
Israel: withdraw unilaterally from the Golan Heights and other occupied territories. Reject Jewish theocracy and support democracy.
US: Apologize to Iran for past abuses. Reconcile. Be neutral between Iran and Saudi Arabia. End support for Israeli occupations. Abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty and disarm all nuclear weapons. Stop sending weapons and ammunition to Syria opposition. End your superiority complex to the world.
Russia: Stop sending weapons and ammunition. Retract support for Assad’s regime with a call for internationally monitored elections. Abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty and disarm all nuclear weapons. End discrimination against Muslim minority groups in Russia. End your inferiority complex to the Americans.
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf: move away from feudalistic dictatorship. Retract call for Assad’s removal with a call for elections. Stop sending weapons and combatants to Syria. Remove the sword from your flag and replace it with something that affirms life.
Iran: end the hegemony of a theocratic supreme leader, provide autonomy to Kurds and others, stop supplying Assad with weapons and support. Follow Germany’s lead and abandon nuclear power and enrichment. It’s a curse.
Egypt: Hold swift and fair elections in which the Brotherhood can contest for power. Reduce power of the military and security forces. Stop persecuting religious minorities. Free Gaza.
UK/France: Apologize to Syria for colonialism. Radically disarm weapons of mass destruction.
So when people ask what can we do besides bomb, invade, send combatants or weapons to Syria…there is much that can and should be done. Governments need to change some of their policies. This will only happen with substantial citizen pressure. Meanwhile Syria burns.