Resistance movements, by their very nature, invariably end up responding to the violence perpetrated by the regime they are battling, with violence of their own. That is no justification for the suicide bombing in Damascus that killed five top members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. But such retaliation was inevitable given the brutality with which President Assad has tried to hang on to power. He is now surrounded by hostile forces on all sides and even former allies find themselves unable to defend him. Jordan has threatened to take control of Syria’s chemical weaponry and Kofi Annan — the UN envoy dealing with the matter — now seems to endorse international action against Assad. Assad’s time is up but he seems not to have realised that.
The biggest hurdle in the way of UN action is Russia, which has warned that it will use its veto power in the Security Council to prevent further sanctions or the threat of a multinational force being used against this regime. Despite this, it is time for the international community to intervene. Claims of sovereignty do not give a government the right to massacre its own people and the Syrian regime needs to be removed. Mr Annan, given his moral authority and official position, needs to come out in favour of this.
While recognising the need to remove Assad from power, it should also be kept in mind that the resistance has some unsavoury characters of its own. The presence of Islamist groups in the opposition is certainly a worry as no one would want a post-Assad set-up to include groups that endorse suicide bombings and who want to impose their own version of faith on the country. Here, too, the onus will be on the international community to ensure that the transition of power in Syria is smooth and that elections are held in a fair and timely manner. The power void in Syria may end up being filled by groups that are as undemocratic as Assad without the right kind of help from the world.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2012.
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