The international community must do much more to pressure the regime of Syrian Bashar al-Assad, but the time has not come yet for any military intervention, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Yemeni dissident Tawakkul Karman tells The Cable.
"The international community has not performed its duties sufficiently to assist and support Syria and the people of Syria. And due to this delay in action, this is why we have this huge scope of destruction and blood," Karman said in a Thursday interview. She was in town to speak at the International Women of Courage Awards, hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama.
"When we talk about intervention, we do not talk about military intervention, we talk about all forms of peaceful intervention that would place more pressure on the Assad regime, strangulate him from every direction, and cut all forms of aid to the regime," she said.
Karman identified several useful steps the international community still has not taken to escalate the pressure on the Syrian regime, including freezing the assets of Assad himself and his entourage, severing diplomatic relations with the regime, and increasing political and economic sanctions, all of which should be done before further militarizing the conflict.
"So far unfortunately the international community has chosen only to speak out and then do nothing," she said. "Arming the opposition is the last resort. It's more important to support the revolution by using financial means at this point. Money is the lifeblood of these regimes."
The time may come when the international community should move to arm the Syrian opposition for an all-out fight with Assad, according to Karman.
"The question is, has the international community exhausted all other options before getting to this point?" she said. "So far that hasn't happened."
Karman also said the international community must not be fooled by false concerns that extremist elements, such as al Qaeda, will take over in Syria if and when the Assad regime falls.
"These are the same concerns that were expressed before the fall of Qaddafi, Mubarak, and Saleh, and we all know that these dictators are the ones who feed the ideology of al Qaeda and help spread its beliefs," she said. "And without these dictators the Arab world is much more peaceful and stable. And the youth of the Arab Spring are determined to ensure that all forms of terrorism in the region are stopped."
"If there are any incidents, it's the dictators who are behind them to instill fear in the international problem," she said. "In general, this problem does exist and the Arab youth are determined to wipe it out. This is the message of our peaceful revolution."
Asked about growing concerns about recent al Qaeda-linked attacks in Yemen, she said: "It's the remnants of the Saleh regime and this is not al Qaeda."
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John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.