Last Updated: Tue Jul 17, 2012 07:57 am (KSA) 04:57 am (GMT)

A new massacre and beyond

Hassan A. Barari

So far, the international community has been ineffective in dealing with the ongoing crisis in Syria. More than 18,000 people were killed and the worst is yet to come.

The latest massacre, in Tremseh, carried out by the Syrian troops should ring the alarm bell. Not only is the regime adamant about killing as many as it takes for it to survive, it has also come to realise that the threats and warnings coming from the West and Turkey are nothing but empty words.

The international community’s fear that intervention could lead to a civil war in Syria is a smokescreen for its ineffectiveness. Far from being prudent, the lack of any sort of intervention is allowing Syria to descend into a civil war.

Additionally, the Syrians feel that they are unprotected. While it is true that the Saudis and the Qataris have been arming the rebels with light weapons, their support is no match to what Russia and Iran have been offering the Assad regime. Russia has been providing the Syrian troops with arms while Iran is involved militarily by having boots on the ground.

It is true that the international community has been talking about ways of bringing about political change, but key countries sit on the sidelines.

In the Middle East, a few take seriously Hillary Clinton’s statements on the Syrian crisis. The American efforts to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin to help effect political change in Syria are both naïve and counterproductive.

Every time the American president says that his country will not interfere in the Syrian conflict, President Bashar Assad concludes that there will be no price tag on his deeds.

Moreover, since UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Kofi Annan started his mediation, massacres happened one after another.

The Syrians are most likely to continue their life and death battle against the Damascus regime. External, meaningful, help could shorten the battle and cut the losses for all sides. And yet, for the rebels to prevail and for the Assad regime to realise that it cannot survive, the international community must stand firmly against Assad.

The failure to interfere will have grave consequences for the region. First, given the current balance of power in Syria, the country can easily descend into a civil war that can spill over into Lebanon and perhaps Iraq. Syria, in this case, will serve as a battlefield for a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, on the one hand, and Iran, on the other hand.

Second, in a failed state in Syria, fundamentalist groups will be able to threaten the stability of the region. This is a lesson the West needs to internalise. It is far better to work with regional powers to change the regime or at least create the conditions that make Assad’s life extremely difficult than to adopt a wait-and-see strategy.

After yet another massacre, key countries in the region and the West should throw in their lot more firmly with the rebels. The opposition groups should be encouraged to get their act together and act united under the umbrella of the Syrian National Council.

In weeks to come, there should be genuine planning to impose no-fly zones to counter the Syrian planes and helicopters. After the latest massacre, the region will no doubt accept such measures.

The writer is a columnist at the Jordan Times. The article was published in the Amman-based daily on July 16, 2012

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