Difficult though it may be to figure out exactly what should be done in Syria, it is clear that whatever has been done until now has failed. In the worst massacre of the 14-month uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the government militias were accused of killing over 100 people in the town of Houla, one-third of whom were children. The world at large is ready to take action against Assad, since claims of sovereignty do not give him carte blanche to kill his own citizens. The main sticking point so far has been Russia, which is allied to Assad and has been one of Syria’s biggest arms suppliers. Russia, through its use of the veto power, has stymied any chances of the United Nations sending in a multinational force to oust Assad.
But now there are signs of a shift. In its first condemnation of Assad’s massacre of civilians, Russia joined the rest of the UN Security Council to denounce the carnage in Houla. The Russian foreign minister contradicted Assad’s claim that “terrorists” were behind the attack and said that there was no doubt that the regime’s militia was responsible. So far, the only credible peace plan has come from former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. It calls on Syrian forces to observe a ceasefire, release political prisoners and allow freedom of movement and association.
It has not taken long for Assad to disregard Annan’s peace plan and it is hardly pessimistic to say that he never intended on following it anyway. Assad is lashing out against his own citizens because they no longer see him as their legitimate ruler. The world is duty-bound to ensure that the wishes of the Syrian people translate into reality. A military solution to Assad’s tyranny is not the ideal scenario but if it comes to that then the world has to be ready. There is a need to cobble together as broad an alliance as possible so that any action against Syria is not discredited as an American or Western plot.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2012.
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