There have been countless plans to send observers, mediators and envoys, as well as promises to send peacekeeping forces to protect civilians, and most recently it was said that combat troops were to be sent to deter the Syrian regime’s forces. So here is an interesting question: What happened to all these ideas? What happened to the idea of sending Arab troops, put forward three weeks ago? What has Lakhdar Brahimi actually done since being assigned the task of resolving the Syrian crisis? What did his predecessor envoys do? And what became of the plan to support the Syrian opposition with arms, to enable them to overthrow Bashar al-Assad’s regime?
The most notable idea has been to send Arab troops to fight al-Assad. Qatar proposed it, the Egyptian President and Turkish Prime Minister seized upon it, and then it died down. Was this an idea that simply came and went? Or was it merely passionate rhetoric to go along with the Turkish Justice and Development Party conference?
An idea is a good one if – first and foremost – it is not attached to the crippling condition of requiring the approval of the UN Security Council. This council has failed to issue one single resolution in favor of the Syrian people. In fact, in order for Bashar to sleep soundly in his palace throughout these past months, he has only needed Russia and China to raise their hands every once in a while, thus vetoing any genuine action.
Even if the Security Council approved the proposal [to send Arab troops to Syria], then we would face another problem: There are no Arab states willing to send their troops to Jordan or Turkey, in order to enter Syrian territory and engage in combat. Those who fought Gaddafi’s forces in Libya were NATO troops with symbolic Arab participation. Furthermore, even if there were Arab forces ready to fight, I am not confident that Turkey and Jordan would allow Arab forces to cross through their territory into Syria, fearing that they might become embroiled in the warfare.
The proposal to send Western forces to fight is closer to the reality than sending Arab troops, even though the West has explicitly stated that it will not engage in conflict against al-Assad’s forces, despite its political stance in favor of the Syrian revolution. The real hope lies with the Syrian people themselves, not in Arab or Western forces, to determine their own destiny and fight the Syrian regime, no matter how long this takes and at whatever cost.
The situation in Syria has not changed much; Bashar al-Assad is not prepared to leave the capital Damascus peacefully, the rebels are not tired of fighting him, and the general public are not weary of demonstrating against him, although it seems strange for peaceful demonstrations to take place against a regime that uses heavy weaponry and warplanes to bomb its own cities.
With all due respect to an international mediator who is appreciated by everyone, Lakhdar Brahimi will not be able to do anything to change the situation on the ground, unless the rebels start to threaten al-Assad in Damascus. This is the only possible scenario to transfer power from al-Assad to the Syrian people. Hence we return to the fundamental truth: Supporting the rebels will secure the downfall of the regime and put an end to the Syrian people’s tragedy, and the time has come to stop the lies about mediators, envoys and promises.
This article was published in Asharq al-Awsat on Oct. 18, 2012. Abdul Rahman al-Rashed is the general manager of Al Arabiya television.