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article imageOp-Ed: Syria -- Sitting on the sidelines

By Paul Iddon     Feb 15, 2013 in World
The U.N. Secretary General's recent comments on the Syrian crisis is a reminder of the ineptitude exhibited by that international organization and the international community as a whole.
Fighting is still raging against the Syrian state as the death toll in that conflict reaches some 70,000 people. Ban Ki-moon has recently lamented about the fact that the international community is doing little in the midst of a horrific crisis on the ground in Syria. He pointed out that, “The catalog of war crimes is mounting. Sexual violence is widespread.” He also stressed that, “The Security Council must no longer stand on the sidelines. It must be willing to come together and establish the parameters for the democratic transition that could save Syria.”
Meanwhile the Syrian regimes foreign ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, has even left his country which he described as “a battleground, not a normal country.” He was also quoted as stating that he wished he “could stay on Syrian soil but there is no place for moderation or compromise amid this chaos.”
Clearly things aren't getting discernibly better, if anything they are likely getting worse. Mr. Ban has advocated the call made by the Syrian opposition leader, Moaz al Khatib, on Assad to engage with him in talks. Ban highlighted some other elementary factors that need to be observed by the divided Security Council putting emphasis on the need to stop arms supplies to both sides of this war. Ban stressed the “need to find a way towards negotiations between empowered government and opposition delegations that can make key decisions about the country's future.”
This is all pretty elementary stuff. Nevertheless the conflict rages on. From the sidelines we've seen thousands of Syrians being butchered by both opposition forces and the regimes military and paramilitary forces. Some 750,000 Syrians have left their country and for the most part are housed in refugee camps in neighboring countries. On top of that some 4,000,000 Syrians are in need of humanitarian aid with many more being terrorized by the abject affects the war is having on the country. Ban is quite obviously correct when he says something needs to be done. But what?
The United States and in essence the western bloc of the United Nations are supporting the Syrian opposition. Obama even declared some weeks ago that the United States takes the view that the opposition are the true representatives of the Syrian people. Russia and China meanwhile are supporting the Assad regime and have used their Security Council veto powers to ensure no resolution to impose sanctions on Syria is passed.
Whilst the United States has given focal support to the opposition and clearly opposes Assad in his efforts to crush the rebellion against his Baathist rule one is doubtful it will pursue a policy of regime change in Damascus. As has been said numerous times, by myself and many others, the implementation of a protective aerial umbrella over these opposition forces and a possible attack on Syrian military forces, of the kind that was launched by the United States against the Libyan military in 2011's Operation Odyssey Dawn, is unlikely to transpire in the coming weeks and months, if at all. One highly doubts we'll see an operation as extensive, U.N backed or otherwise, as 2003's Operation Iraqi Freedom in the next few years, again if at all. Whether or not one thinks this is what should be done is another discussion altogether.
I believe that Assad should be viewed as the most powerful warlord in what is now for all intents-and-purposes a civil and sectarian conflict. Whilst the opposition is consecrating itself to ousting Mr. Assad from power it wouldn't be wise to assume that will bring an end to the conflict. On the contrary that could just constitute in the long term as the beginning. There is also a chance that Assad may be able to regain control over much of the country and preside with brute force as a military dictator over a beggared and destroyed state. Or there is the potential scenario that will see the Israelis will intervene militarily if they feel threatened or are attacked and destroy Syria's WMD stocks and military forces that could in turn be used to attack them -- which will probably be executed through fighter sorties on Syrian military air bases and military bases.
This state of affairs strongly suggests that we've gradually watched the 'Lebanonization' of the Syrian conflict. As with Lebanon this entails an ongoing and protracted state-of-conflict and crisis for the Syrian populace who will inevitably be the ones who will, and are currently in their millions, suffer. The fact that an international body of the stature of the United Nations is paralyzed, powerless and unable to do anything to try and alleviate and bring to an end this horrible state of affairs is highly troubling. As is the very salient division of the Security Council. One hopes Syria isn't the failed litmus test that will inevitably relegate the United Nations into the annals of history with its predecessor.
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
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