JO TYABJI: I’m Jo Tyabji, editor of openSecurity, and today, I’m with Yezid Sayigh, who is a senior associate of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. Yezid, thank you so much for being with me.

TYABJI: We started this week with an urgent statement from the Friends of Syria in Qatar, saying that measures would be taken to get all material equipment to the rebels in Syria. To what extent does this represent a real escalation—a military escalation—or is there room for the status quo to pretty much continue?

YEZID SAYIGH: I think there’s a lot of room for the status quo to continue, with some change. In other words, I think the Friends of Syria will allow a certain flow of weapons to to go to the Syrian rebels—maybe still via allies in the region, such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Although the Obama administration approved in min-June the direct supply of American military assistance—lethal military assistance—to the rebels, but the key issue here, I think, is that the Friends of Syria, and especially the Western partners of the Friends of Syria, have spun out this whole thing for many months. They’ve waived the threat of supplying arms to the opposition, they’ve gone back and forth on it, they’ve threatened to do it, and then at the end of May, the European Union ended its embargo—or its total embargo in supplying weapons to Syria—in order to allow individual member-states to provide some sort of military assistance to the rebels.

SAYIGH: So what we have is a lot of gesturing, a lot of signaling to the Syrians and to the Russians. And I think this is because the Friends of Syria basically have run out of cards to play. They imposed sanctions—economic sanctions and financial sanctions and very painful ones in Syria—quite early in the crisis, in other words, in the beginning of  2012. And that was pretty much their only really effective option, short of going to the Security Council, which they tried, but that got blocked, of course, by Russia and China. They still don’t have the option of getting collective international sanctions from the United Nations, because the Russians and the Chinese are still committed to blocking that. So, this leaves the Friends of Syria really with very few choices.

This interview was originally broadcasted by openSecurity.