A poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Photo credit: Delayed gratification
Fighting between President Bashar al-Assad’s government forces and rebels in Aleppo, Syria’s second-city, has intensified. Government forces launched a ground assault on Saturday after a week of sporadic shelling and sorties by fighter jets, reported the BBC. A guerrilla war is under way for control of the city, where rebel fighters are reportedly in control of some suburbs. Some 200,000 people have fled intense fighting in the past two days, the UN has said. Since the beginning of the bloody Syrian conflict, 20,000 people have been killed.
The UN Security Council is divided over Syria, with Russia and China thrice blocking attempts by Western nations to ramp up pressure on Assad. France is due to take over the presidency of the Security Council this week, and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has pledged to continue pushing the issue. He called Assad an “executioner” and said he would ask for a ministerial level meeting of Security Council members before the end of the week. US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, who is on a five day Middle East tour, has also heavily criticised the government’s assault on Aleppo. Pannetta said the latest attack would be “a nail in the coffin” of Assad.
In an interview with The Times (£), Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev hinted that Moscow’s patience with Assad could be running out, saying “the positions of Russia, the US and Britain are not as sharply different as sometimes suggested. We all start from the position that the worst outcome would be a full civil war in Syria.”
Assad’s departure is a prerequisite of peace
In an editorial, The Times (£) insisted that the sooner “tyrant” Assad goes the better for Syria and the world. “The only peace that Mr Assad is now capable of implementing is that of the concentration camp and the charnel house,” said the newspaper. “The longer that he clings to power, the more certain will be Syria’s agony, the greater the risk that the country will disintegrate along communal lines, and the more worrying the question what may happen to Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons. An outlaw regime may create chaos and catastrophe to dwarf the massacres so far visited upon Syria’s people.” The Times said that Medvedev’s new-found “agnosticism” about Assad’s future offers a “sliver of hope” but even without unanimity on the Security Council, “it is imperative that the international community give what help it can to forge a post-Assad future for Syria.”
Syria can be preserved if the West backs the non-violent opposition
Syria “can be preserved by the subtle route of compromise” argued Syria specialist Charles Class at The Guardian’s Comment is free, who said “the choice confronting the world is not between the Assad regime and the opposition, but between two oppositions. One seeks international military intervention to enable it to overthrow the regime. The other strives for change through civil disobedience and dialog and rejects military interference by foreign powers whose hostility to Syria pre-dates their recent discovery of the country’s woes.” Class lamented that “this conflict … born as a peaceful rebellion” has snowballed into a battle between Assad’s unelected dictatorship and violent militias who do not boast a “popular mandate.” Class insisted that the international community must support the opposition who continue to choose the banner over the rifle. “Let Russia bring Assad kicking and screaming to the table, while the US and its allies do the same with the opposition,” suggested Class. “Is that course really less realistic, or less helpful to Syria, than all-out war?”