Syrians need to ‘solve their own crisis'
by Thu Hang
The situation in Syria remains deadlocked as violence continues to escalate and fears of a wider regional crisis rise. However, war and interference from outside would be disastrous for the entire region.
|An image released by the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria shows observers visiting a power transfer station targeted by an explosion in Qabun, a district of Damascus. A 300-member UN observation team has been suspended its operation two months into its three-month mandate last Saturday, blaming the intensifying violence. — AFP Photo
The Syrian government and opposition have both denied allegations by UN undersecretary general for peacekeeping operations, Herve Ladsous, that Syria has descended into a civil war. The Syrian government continues to assert that it is in strong control of the domestic situation.
But the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) suspended its operations two months into its three-month mandate last Saturday, blaming the intensifying violence.
The observers had been attemtping to implement a peace plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan which had called for foreign monitors to inspect for compliance with a ceasefire that had been supposed to go into effect back on April 12, but they instead became independent witnesses to the carnage on the both sides as government and rebel forces ignored the truce.
Maj Gen Robert Mood, the UN mission chief, said operations were suspended due to an escalation in fighting and the risk to his UN team, as well as a lack of willingness for peace by the warring parities.
This is only the latest sign that UN peace efforts have failed to keep Syria fromfalling into a civil war. Many hundreds, including civilians, have been killed in the two months since Annan's ceasefire deal was supposed to come into effect.
And the violence has increased sharply this month, with rebels formally abandoning any commitment to the ceasefire and government forces using attack helicopters and artillery to battle opposition strongholds.
With the insurgency over the past 15 months, the administration of President Bashar al-Assad has gradually lost support. The crisis became more complicated when the Arab League last November decided to suspend Syria's membership, imposed sanctions, and requested the Syrian military to stop using force on civilians. This was contrary to the usual policy of the Arab League of non-interference in the internal affairs of its member countries and marked the Assad government's loss of support among regional allies.
Meanwhile, the conflict has been gradually internationalised by the West, with the US and European Union moving to isolate and put pressure on Syrian government. Assad continues to receive support from Russia and China, two traditional allies, both of which have tried to protect the administration in Damascus by using their vetoes on the UN Security Council to block tougher action against Assad.
They say a solution must come through political dialogue, an approach most of the Syrian opposition rejects.
"We believe that nobody has the right to decide for other nations who should be brought to power and who should be removed from power," Reuters quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin as saying at the Group of 20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico.
Russia also recognised dangers of the violence in Syria, and agreed that it had to end, but both Russia and the US offered no new solutions and showed no signs of reaching a deal on tougher sanctions on Damascus during their talk at G20 summit.
The Assad's administration still has solid support from Russia because Russia has so far not found anyone in the picture better than Assad, said the director of the faculty of international politics at the Diplomatic Academy of Viet Nam, Do Son Hai.
"Government and opposition parties have blamed each other for the massacre, while Russia and other countries blamed each other for the supply of arms to Syria," Hai said, "and the situation has been further complicated by the involvement of the Arab League, UN, EU, China and Russia."
Nobody knows when the fighting will end but the current situation is not a civil war, he said.
The role of the UN continues to be crucial despite the shortcomings of its present brief, since the world needs a neutral eye on this conflict.
Meanwhile, the situation in Syria is not good for anyone in the context of economic difficulties and with the price of oil already unstable, Hai said.
Rumours continue to circulate that the major powers will use military force to end the conflict and that they are already discussing plans for a post-Assad government. Openly, however, the US administration has so far ruled out military intervention in Syria.
Hai believed that talk of intervention might simply be added pressure on Assad's government and that only compromise can end the fighting. Further military intervention from the outside could lead to prolonged civil war, leaving the situation like post-war Iraq, he said.
It could prompt a much wider wave of instability in the region. Unlike Libya, Syria – both politically and geographically – is a central player in the Arab world, and sectarianism and instability there could threaten both Lebanon and Iraq.
"Only Syrians themselves can resolve the situation," Hai said. "Outsiders can be effective by putting pressure on Syria, but only Syrians can create a breakthrough." — VNS