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article imageOp-Ed: What should be done in Syria? Special

By Paul Iddon     Jul 27, 2012 in Politics
As the Syrian regime is employing heavy weaponry against the rebel oppositions in Aleppo, the question regarding the fate of the country and how the international community should react is another one the international community is confronted with.
The al-Watan newspaper, a paper in favour of the regime has recently warned that the "mother of all battles," was about to start. This comes as the Syrian military is using artillery, attack helicopters and jet fighters to bombard and strafe the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. The most populated city in the country. The U.S. has expressed fears that the Syrian regimes forces may be about to carry out a massacre.
This comes following the events in Damascus last week, which has seen to the Syrian military extensively using artillery bombardments and ground attacks to crush the rebel 'Damascus Volcano' offensive. This month has so far been the bloodiest since the fighting began in March 2011, some 100 people are being killed everyday with the death toll estimated to be around 19,000.
Many question whether these highly significant developments signal the endgame for the conflict, also it is an apt time to once again reassess and recap on the division in the U.N. Security Council, what it means for the broader situation and indeed how the international community should react to it.
Russia and China certainly don't want the United States and the western powers to aid or take part directly in regime change in Syria. So they have consistently vetoed every U.N. Security Council Resolution that condemns Assad and threatens to level international sanctions against Syria, they have also continued to fulfill their obligations with regard to arms contracts they have with Syria, hence continually supplying them with spare parts to keep their predominately Russian made hardware operational. The regional allies of the United States Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been supplying the opposition with weaponry and make no secret their desire to see Assad ousted.
Indeed the perfect solution to the crisis in many minds of western hawks is to directly support the rebels from the air and aid them that way in overthrowing Assad. This would see to the United States and more than likely its NATO allies supporting the rebels from the air like they did in Libya last year. It would probably more than likely quickly evolve into thousands of aircraft sorties to destroy the military and probably along with that a large part of the country's infrastructure.
Such an attack would divide even further the split in the Security Council over Mideast affairs, it may also add further to the destabilization of the region. As well as these factors there is a good chance that it is to late to aid the rebels in overthrowing Assad and bringing about order in the country. With extensive use of heavy weaponry Assad may in the next few weeks and months completely dismember and destroy the rebels network of operations across the country, terrorizing the population as he does so. If that turns out to be the case he will then be presiding over a beggared and devastated populace, quite possibly one that will only be able to remain stable through the regimes implementation of martial law across large swaths of the country (particularly the long time rebellious Hama province).
This happened in Iraq in 1991, Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime put down large scale uprisings from the majority Shia population in the south and the Kurdish populace in the north through the use of helicopter gunships.
If this happens in Syria over the coming weeks and months, if the U.N. is still divided, and if the U.S. doesn't unilaterally intervene like it did in Iraq in 2003, then how will the international community respond? Impose tough economic sanctions under the pretext of weakening the Syrian regime?
The idea of this is a highly nauseating one. A friend of mine grew up in Iraq in the 1990's when the country was beggared and bankrupt, in part due to the tough economic sanctions imposed on it by the United Nations. I asked him about those times and if that period of deprivation in Iraqi society should be kept in mind when the idea of imposing economic sanctions is discussed with regard to Syria.
To backtrack, he explained how the average salary in those dark days was 3,000 dinars a month (a mere $1.50) and that the remaining wealth of the country was owned by about 3% of the population (which puts the Occupy Movements mantra about "the 1%" stealing all the wealth into serious perspective) whilst the rest struggled to survive on basics such as rice, which he recalls "was terrible" and "full of gravel." The Hussein regime he added did provide the population with "rice, soap, sugar, salt, tea", but only necessities, the regime itself still remained affluent and was able to maintain its control and preside over the literal serfs that the Iraqi people had been made into.
He also warned that such sanctions on Syria "will be bad because the Syrian people will pay the price, Assad will live the same life he is living now."
Indeed if Assad's wife recent shopping spree -- that saw to her spending some half a million dollars to refurbish one of her presidential palaces -- tells you anything, it is that economic sanctions imposed on Syria will probably reduce hundreds of thousands of Syrians to a state of abjection and more than likely will only slightly irritate the extravagant lifestyles enjoyed by members of the higher echelons of the tight-knit ruling Alawite-Baathist dictatorship.
Also, it is vital to note that it is highly unlikely that neither Russia nor China would support sanctions, so those imposing the economic sanctions against Syria would be the western countries. The Assad 'kleptocracy' (unlike the former Hussein regime in Iraq or the Gaddafi regime in Libya) has secured most of its foreign investments in Russia.
So to conclude, in my -- albeit humble -- opinion, with what we know from past examples, and from what we've seen and read there is nothing the international community can do that will have a solvent effect over not doing anything, most Syrian analysts have warned that intervention may worsen the crisis rather than alleviate it. It is very difficult to watch this thing play out on sidelines, but until a tenable solution which has a solvent outcome for the Syrian people is presented, it is, I'm sorry to say, probably the only option in the meantime.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Syria, Syrian crisis, Bashar alAssad, Syrian civil war, United Nations
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