The situation in Syria gets worse every day as the world looks helplessly on, unable or unwilling to directly intervene in this terrible conflict. There have been more accusations of massacres by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and the fighting and killing continues throughout the country.
Russia will be the big loser in all of this- Anthony Manduca
Assad never wanted a negotiated settlement ever since peaceful protests erupted in Syria almost 18 months ago. His immediate reaction was to crack down savagely on protesters simply because they were demanding political reform.
Like Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Assad’s tactic has simply been to kill his opponents to retain power, regardless of the number of casualties involved. Unfortunately, the situation in Syria is not as ‘simple’ as it was in Libya; it is proving more difficult to overthrow Assad, and the international community is worried about the regional consequences of outside intervention.
A large portion of the blame for the world’s inaction over Syria lies squarely with the refusal of Russia and China to take any action at the UN.
Unfortunately, the Russians and Chinese have, on a number of occasions, vetoed UN Security Council resolutions condemning the Syrian regime’s crackdown on its own people and threatening sanctions on Damascus. These resolutions never even mentioned military intervention, yet they were still vetoed by these two countries.
Russia, which has close political, economic and military ties to Syria, still refuses to see the bigger picture in this whole crisis and apparently believes Assad can actually remain in power through military means.
This is a very short-sighted interpretation of events; Assad will eventually be overthrown and Russia will be the big loser in all of this. China has chosen to follow Moscow’s line of thought in this crisis, which is unfortunate but not at all surprising. Like Russia, Bejing will lose influence in the Arab world as a result of its refusal to help stop the oppression in Syria.
However, the time has come for outside intervention, if necessary without UN backing. Although it is always better to have military action sanctioned by the UN, sometimes unilateral action becomes inevitable to stop further bloodshed or genocide. This has happened before, such as when Nato intervened in Kosovo.
There is a limit to how long the world can just watch in horror as atrocities are committed in Syria. We have to keep in mind that the Syrian military and pro-Assad militias have been particularly brutal in this conflict.
Thousands of people have been killed as air strikes and heavy artillery are used against civilian areas. It is estimated that if the current level of fighting continues, the number of casualties could reach 30,000 to 40,000 by the end of the year.
On Thursday, Syria’s neighbours – trying to cope with more than 200,000 war refugees – asked the UN Security Council for urgent help in coping with the growing humanitarian crisis. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the UN that his government had already spent more than €240 million to build 11 refugee camps. He said Turkey, already home to 80,000 Syrian refugees, can only handle 20,000 more.
Davutoglu also claimed there were two million displaced people inside Syria and urged the UN to establish buffer zones to protect them.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh also pleaded for help, telling the UN Security Council his country could not cope with the more than 70,000 refugees inside its borders.
Lebanon, which has had to absorb 56,000 refugees from Syria, has been directly affected by the unrest in Syria and there have been violent clashes between Sunni Muslims and pro-Syrian Alawites in the northern town of Tripoli.
“Lebanon is the most vulnerable of all Syria’s neighbours, it has the most intimate close links with Syria,” Fawaz Gerges,director of the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics, was quoted as saying by the Financial Times.
Hopefully, the international community will finally realise that some sort of direct intervention in Syria is urgently required. A number of leaders have certainly become more critical of Damascus in recent days, which is encouraging.
Last week, for example, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi told a Non-Aligned Movement summit in Teheran: “Our solidarity with the struggle of the Syrian people against an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy is an ethical duty as it is a political and strategic necessity”.
Morsi also said it was the international community’s duty to intervene to stop the killings in Syria. Unsurprisingly, these comments prompted a walkout by the Syrian delegation, and embarrassed Morsi’s Iranian hosts, who support the Assad regime.
In another welcome move, French President Francois Hollande announced that France is to recognise a provisional government set up by opposition forces.
Hollande also echoed a statement by US President Barack Obama – who has been somewhat silent over Syria recently – that any use of chemical weapons by Damascus would mean immediate international military intervention.
There are a number of options available to the global community to stop the bloodshed in Syria and these do not necessarily include direct air strikes against the regime or sending in troops. What should be seriously considered at this stage is the setting up of no-fly zones and no-drive zones – enforced by Nato and the Arab League – which would prevent both air strikes and armoured divisions being used against the Syrian people.
Safe havens for civilians within Syria should also be considered. Diplomacy has been tried and failed; now it is time to act.
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