Rafik Hariri Center Senior Fellow Frederic Hof is quoted by the Economist on what the United States can do regarding Syria now that President Assad is poised to win a third term in office:
American officials, notably Samantha Power, ambassador to the UN, are particularly disturbed by the regime’s incessant use of barrel-bombs, crude devices packed with explosives dropped from the air, sometimes onto schools and blocks of flats. Aleppo has been grievously bashed by them of late. Mr Assad has exploited last year’s deal to hand over his chemical weapons to avert threatened American air strikes. “One of the unintended consequences of the chemical-weapons agreement was Assad’s belief that he was free to do anything he wanted to do to vulnerable civilians so long as he did it without chemicals,” says Fred Hof, a former State Department man at the Atlantic Council, a think-tank in Washington.
“Helping the legitimate opposition is the best way—and after three years we know who they are,” says Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief who now runs the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies, a think-tank in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. “Alas, even our allies have not come round to that idea.” Mr Hof reckons that handing a limited number of anti-aircraft missiles to vetted individuals could at least help to stem the bloodshed. “The first time a regime helicopter or fighter-jet is taken down, the word will go around the regime’s combat-aviation corps that the free ride killing children in their schools is over,” he says.