A member of the Syrian Free Rebel Army - Photocredit: FreedomHouse. (The image was taken from a video which has yet to be independently verified.)
After the continuing bloodshed in Syria, and the deaths of war correspondent Marie Colvin and photographer Remi Ochlik, people are asking more questions about intervention in the country. Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite regime should go – but with foreign intervention, or not, is the question.
A conference is being held in Tunisia to seek a breakthrough in the Syrian unrest. The US, Europe and Arab countries, as well as dozens more, are planning to ask Assad to allow access for humanitarian aid in to the worst afflicted areas. Russia and China are not attending, reported the BBC. Those two countries have long used their security council vetoes at UN meetings to block resolutions. Whatever happens, the bloodshed will continue.
The world has finally taken notice. Con Coughlin in The Daily Telegraph said that in conflict there’s usually a moment when the world starts noticing. For Syria, it was Marie Colvin’s death. It took Gaddaf’s threat to slaughter the people of Benghazi before the West stepped in. More than 5,000 people have been slaughtered since Assad started repression protest. But because Russia and China have been weilding their brute power, the West has been tied down. The “odious clique of Alawite thugs in Damascus” must be eliminated. Colvin was clearly targeted for her fearless reporting – this is a regime, let us not forget, that punishes journalists with acid in their eyes. There is rampant evidence of war crimes. Even Russia must realize that Assad’s “on the ropes.” Without Russia, Syria’s dictatorship would not survive. Syria also can’t continue to rely on its troops to massacre civilians. The best place for Assad is “in the dock at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.”
It doesn’t have to be war. History is “unfolding all around us”, said Philip Collins in The Times. Eventually, the peoples of the Middle East will have democracy. The problem at the moment is that the idea of “liberal intervention” came to a halt with Iraq. Syria shows us what would have happened in Iraq had there been no intervention. It’s strange to remember that Assad was once heralded as the face of reform. Despite his brutality, the case for non-intervention is still persuasive. The Syrian Army is large. The opposition has no control over territory. There’s no obvious inheriting power. There’s even a risk of “full-scale war” with Russia, Iran and Syria on one side, and the West on the other. “Intervention, in other words, will mean chaos.” But what we must remember is that we have chaos already. A safe zone needs to be created for the opposition, which needs money; and we need to sabotage Assad’s troops a bit more. Though the arguments against intervention are “overwhelming”, we can still do our bit.
We should intervene now. If the West doesn’t immediately intervene, said Emile Nakleh in The Financial Times, then Homs, with its population of over 1 million, will face the same fate as the city of Hama, which was destroyed by Assad’s father 30 years ago. The “demise of another Arab dictator can only be good for the region.” It would end the cold war between Iran and other Sunni Arab states. How many innocent people need to be killed before the West takes notice? Assad doesn’t appreciate that the “Arab authoritarian narrative has run its course.” What is clear is that “the longer the regime stays in power, the bloodier its end will be.” He agreed with Collins’ suggestion that a safe zone should be provided – and if Syrian forces “violate” that zone, then the west should arm the rebels. If that fails, then intervention should seriously be considered. “Sooner or later the number of casualties will be such that the west is compelled to act. It should do that now rather than wait.”
We don’t have to intervene, but we can create a new context. The deaths of those journalists, though, said Adrian Hamilton in The Independent, won’t get the West to intervene. Libya’s “the exception that proved the rule.” Now it can’t control itself. Syria would be worse. What the diplomatic gathering in Tunis must prove is that “Assad’s day is over.” It doesn’t matter about China and Russia. The whole region around Syria no longer has a place for Assad. This is what matters. It’s in the “region where the country has its closest relationships and in which it has to live. We can’t provide a magic solution to the present plight of Syria but we can start preparing the circumstances of its future.”