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USD political science professor suggests that international intervention will not deter Syrian leader from ongoing civil war

VERMILLION, S.D. -- Regardless the tactic by the United States government, the outcome in Syria is not likely to be a peaceful one, according to Tim Schorn, J.D., Ph.D., professor of political science at the University of South Dakota.

“The President’s willingness to work with the Russians, and to delay the Congressional votes on Syria, will allow the U.S. and the international community to step back from what appeared to be inevitable foreign military strikes against Syria,” stated Schorn, commenting on the situation following President Barack Obama’s address to the nation this week. “Whether this is a meaningful decision by the Syrians and Russians to remove chemical weapons from the scene remains to be seen. There will be some incredibly complicated aspects to any plan to secure the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal.”

According to international reports, on Aug. 21 Syrian President Bashar Assad’s military attacked several rebel-controlled neighborhoods in and around the Syrian capital of Damascus with chemical weapons. The massacre reportedly killed as many as 1,400 people, bringing an estimated total of deaths of more than 100,000 in two-and-a-half years – all in order to sustain his regime’s power over Sunni rebels.

“Unfortunately, the process as now envisioned does nothing to address the humanitarian catastrophe: over two million refugees in neighboring states, over four million internally displaced persons, and the mounting death toll, well over 100,000,” added Schorn, who teaches courses on Middle East Politics and International Human Rights at USD. “Nor does the new diplomatic initiative do anything to address the increased radicalization of parts of the Syrian opposition. We see the Syrian civil war becoming a new battleground for al-Qaeda.”

The decision on whether to strike or not is being weighed heavily by the American public. At this time, most polls show that a majority of Americans are against military action against Syria, even if diplomacy doesn’t work which is the very likely scenario.

“The Assad government is probably not interested at all in a political settlement of this conflict, and the ‘compromise’ over the chemical weapons gives him some political cover to prosecute the war even more aggressively since it has been made clear that deaths from conventional weapons are not going to be much concern to the U.S. and international community,” Schorn said. “He, and his allies, have invested too much in the fight and are ultimately unwilling to surrender power in any form.”

Schorn joined the USD faculty in 1995. An associate professor in the USD Department of Political Science, his areas of expertise are international relations, human rights and terrorism, and his research interests include international human rights as well as Middle Eastern politics. Schorn received a B.A. in social science from Mount Marty College in Yankton, S.D., and a M.A. and Ph.D. in government and international studies, and a J.D., all from the University of Notre Dame. A photo of Schorn is available for download at


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 78 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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Hanna DeLange
USD News