Current Magazine

Syrian Uprising: How to Stop the Bloodshed and Avoid Civil War

Posted on the 25 April 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is clinging on to power

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad during his official visit to Yerevan, Republic of Armenia. Photo credit: PanArmenian_photo

Events in Syria may have not been dominating the international headlines as they did during the bloody shelling of rebel city Homs by President Bashar Al-Assad’s government forces but even though a UN-brokered ceasefire was announced 12 April the situation remains violent and incredibly tense within the troubled country.

The UN special envoy, Kofi Annan, has told the Security Council that Syria is still witnessing unacceptable levels of violence despite the ceasefire, reported the BBC. Briefing diplomats in a closed-door session, Annan said he was alarmed about surges in violence in Syrian cities after visits by UN monitors and said that the overall situation was “entirely contrary to the will of the international community.” Annan and US permanent representative to the UN, Susan Rice, have both called on the Assad regime to allow more observers into Syria.

One activist group said 38 people were killed on Tuesday, mostly in Homs. The UN says about 9,000 people have died since pro-democracy protests began in March 2011. In February, the Syrian government put the death toll at 3,838 – 2,493 civilians and 1,345 security forces personnel.

Despite ceasefire, there’s no end to the violence in sight. An activist in Hama told the Associated Press that dissidents had been punished for coming out to greet the visiting UN observers on Sunday, when they chanted “Long live Syria! Down with Assad!” Syrian troops reportedly fired shells and automatic weapons in the northern Arbaeen and Mashaa al-Arbaeen districts on Monday. Some 40 people were said to have died. Another activist told the BBC there have been government attacks every day and the regime is constantly breaching the ceasefire. “What happens is the observers visit neighbourhoods in the city, then once they leave, the shooting and shelling starts again,” he said.

Intervene now. Writing at The Christian Science Monitor, Kurt Volker, a former US ambassador to NATO, argued that the West “should not wait for a single mass atrocity before it intervenes in Syria, as it did in Bosnia.” Volker accepted that, “nearly all the arguments against intervention in Syria have merit. It is difficult. The Syrian military is strong. Outside powers such as Iran and Russia are engaged. The local politics are complicated. What comes after intervention? Who are the people we would help? What if a revolution is hijacked?” Regardless, Volker insisted that the “moral principles arguing for intervention are already known: The Syrian government is engaged in a systematic campaign of mass murder, seeking to kill anyone who dares oppose it, in order to re-establish firm control. The state of Syria has a monopoly of force – in the military, police, intelligence services, and secret police. The people are standing up with great valor – but little capacity – to oppose such tyranny.”

A negotiated solution is the only way forward. Writing at The Guardian’s Comment is free, Mokhtar Benabdallaoui, professor of Islamic studies at Hassan II University in Casablanca, sais the situation is “dire” in Syria and to “avert” a “dramatic escalation” in violence, “the country needs a structured transition that will first halt the terrible bloodshed and then pave the way for a political process. Any solution should be tailored to the intricacies of Syria’s diverse social tapestry, effectively address the claims of both the government and the insurgency, and heed the lessons of past regional political agreements.” The writer reminded that suddenly removing al-Assad could worsen the situation given he retains support and “it will be a dramatic loss for Alawites (his sect) and other minorities, and may unleash sectarian conflict on an even larger scale.” Benabdallaoui suggested that an early election could also “aggravate sectarian tensions that have emerged with the current conflict. Therefore, prior to any meaningful political development, the transition in Syria must start with an exercise in building trust.” He recommended that Syrians look to Lebanon for inspiration: “Ultimately, the Lebanese system has come to rely on a delicate balance that remains in place only when there is confidence that no one particular group is dominating the system. Syria needs exactly that; a modus vivendi by which, at least initially, assurances are presented to Alawites, Christians, and Druze that whichever system replaces the current one, it will not be dominated by the majority.” “ The absence of a negotiated solution only prolongs the uneasy relationship between factions, threatens Syria’s unity and sovereignty, and will drive the country into a wider civil war,” warned Benabdallaoui.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog