The Syrian crises stems from the anti-government protests that erupted in the southern city of Deraa in mid-march 2011, around the same time as the Arab spring. A similar situation occurred during his father, Hafez al-Assad’s time. With no surprise, Assad used the same policies of oppression, hoping the ‘anti-government miscreants’ will lose momentum. Despite pledges of ‘national dialogue’ on reforms, the uprising continued and by August last year, more than 2000 civilians had died.
At present, after 16 months of uprising against the government by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), more than 19,000 civilians have lost their lives. A civil war has been rightly declared, both by Assad and the international community. Recently, fighting was brought in the courtyard of the capital, killing the defence minister, a close aide to Assad. Many other influential and government figures were also injured. Some say that the FSA is gaining momentum day by day and already controls the border by Turkey. This month alone, according to an activist group, more than 2,750 people were killed. Escalating violence in Syria can spark a refugee crisis for its neighbours.
The international community, except Russia and China, has widely condemned the discordant situation in the region. The joint UN-Arab league envoy, Kofi Annan and his six-point agenda have not been able to ease tensions. According to some views, the whole mission has been a failure and $7.5 million funding by the UN to the Annan mission has gone to waste. Rightly so, Annan who claimed to be a close ally of Assad could not bring in any tangible results to stop the bloodshed in Syria. To his benefit, the international mediator has indeed convened many high level meetings on the Syrian issue and contrary to the western desire, urged Iran to be a part of the negotiations.
The UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, too, apart from the efforts of Annan, has tirelessly travelled and urged world leaders to stop the bloodshed in Syria. He held key talks with Chinese and Russian leadership prior to the voting in the Security Council. The Security Council still could not unanimously agree on the resolution put forward by the French, which called for military intervention against Syria. This drama in the Security Council reiterates the point that Syria is a “colossal failure”, as termed by Susan Rice, the American ambassador to the UN. Big guns of the world have failed to put pressure on the Assad Administration due to the deadlock in the Security Council. Russia and China must understand that the world will now hold them responsible. They should either help in Syria’s transition towards a more democratic state or fully support any economic sanctions put forward by the western front.
It is my opinion that Pakistan should support the policy of ‘no external influence’ backed by the Russians and the Chinese as it supports our stance in the long-run. We must not forget the perpetual American-Israeli relationship and the Iranian factor, which is involved in this whole debacle.
According to a recent article in The New York Times, we see that the United States of America has abandoned efforts for a diplomatic settlement to the Syrian conflict. American officials, through coordinated efforts with Israel and Turkey, have decided to arm the FSA and fund their operations. Intelligence support by the CIA is also on the table. Recently, FSA had sent a list of things to be procured for them by America, this ‘wish-list’ included assault rifles, explosives and other tactical equipment to aid their fight towards Assad’s regime
Surprisingly, it is not only America who is funding the FSA, but full-scale military training and operational funding is also being carried out by our friends in the Gulf countries. These Sunni-dominated countries have aligned their interests primarily for the sake of the oppressed Sunni’s in Syria, the Sunni-Shia clash is clearly in play. The Syrian ambassador to the UN has repeatedly spoken of this and has blamed Libya for providing ‘on ground training facilities’ for the FSA. He claims that these training grounds are being heavily funded by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He also claimed in one of the General Assembly meetings that the Houla Massacre, in which 108 Syrians died last month, was actually a trap orchestrated by the FSA to defame the Syrian military.
Another important aspect to consider is the west’s trust deficit with Iran. The US clearly wants to deride the Iranians. Iran, like Russia and China, is a strong ally of Syria. The American diplomatic front was against the inclusion of Iran in the high level negotiations convened by Kofi Annan.
On the Contrary, let’s not forget that the Russian have not only been protecting Syria on the diplomatic platform but also have been regularly replenishing their military might. Russia and China have thrice vetoed any draft resolution against Syria at the United Nation. The Russian and Chinese support the Syrian people and want the Syrian people to themselves decide what is right for them but do not want to turn a blind eye on Assad.
In conclusion, a quagmire like this, could either spark a cold war or a regional mess in Syria. It would be wise for Pakistan to side with the Syrian people as far as the humanitarian aspect is concerned. However, we should stand by the policy of zero external influence in Syria. Pakistan should also support a simultaneous proposal for a transitional government leading to a stronger democratic system with equal weightage given to all ethnicities.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2012.
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