By Said Temsamani
By Said Temsamani
Morocco World News
Washington, June 30, 2013
Who would believe that the massacres in Syria perpetrated by the Syrian army and the pro-Bashar al-Assad will ever stop. Following the Hula massacre on May 25, 2012, the UN said that most of the approximately one hundred people that were killed, including children, were killed by bullets in the head.
Crush or be crushed: that seems to be the slogan of the bloody Syrian regime which appears to have no other option. This leaves little space to diplomacy. It is, therefore, unlikely that the wave of defections of Syrian ambassadors and charges d’affaires from many world capitals would have any impact. The same thing applies to fifteen successive waves of European sanctions.
About the possibility of military intervention, mentioned on May 29, 2013by French President François Hollande, this is tempered by a codicil size: a green light from the Security Council of the UN. But it is still not reached, despite the increase of killings. The successive meetings of Friends of Syria (the last one held in London) have been held to support the Syrian opposition and prepare for a possible day after.
The British government hosted a meeting in London on June 7 of the core of the Friends of Syria group to discuss preparations for the Geneva II peace conference, which has been postponed until at the earliest July because of the difficulties in convening it.
The Syrian government has said it will attend the forthcoming peace conference. However, the opposition is in disarray, divided over whether to take part in any negotiations while Assad’s departure is not recognized as a precondition.
Western diplomats acknowledge that the recent capture of the central Syrian town of Qusair by government forces, supported by the Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah, is likely to have emboldened Assad, making him less likely to consider concessions – let alone stepping down.
No doubt, however, that it is in Moscow, more than Beijing, where the fate of the Syrian regime lies. So far, Vladimir Putin persists to summarize the Syrian conflict as a sneak attack by the West in Russia’s backyard.
The challenge is to persuade Russia that its influence will be better protected if it drops its holding of a card that continues to lose value. And the continued unrest will ultimately mean that Islamist extremism could in fact be interposed across the country.
The international community had to act to put a definite end to the ongoing massacre of the Syrians civilians. How long should we wait to see a UNSC resolution giving the green light for some sort of intervention. Should the international community just continue to issue communiques denouncing the barbaric Syrian regime or demonstrate on streets screaming slogans calling for the departure of Bashar? I think, we have reached a point where we can recognize the limits of diplomacy on this issue.
After a year of intensive diplomatic efforts by the world body, UN-Arab League peace mediator Lakhdar Brahimi of Algeria has made no more progress than his predecessor, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in getting the government and rebels to come to the negotiating table, or getting Russia and the United States to overcome their deep disagreements on Syria.
There is no reason to expect anything different. After three joint Russian-Chinese vetoes on Syria, the Security Council has all but given up on the issue.
“It’s very depressing to be a party to failed diplomacy,” a senior UN official told Reuters.
“There’s no end to the [Security Council] deadlock and as long as that deadlock remains, it’s hard to make a difference beyond humanitarian aid, and that’s not easy.”
In addition to generally rocky relations between Washington and Moscow, Russia has strategic reasons for standing by Assad. He has been a staunch ally, a major purchaser of Russian arms and host to Russia’s only warm-water naval port. But even Russia realizes Assad will likely be ousted sooner or later.
The deadlock on Syria is especially frustrating for UN officials and diplomats, who complain the United Nations has been confined to the sidelines as the corpses pile higher.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly urged countries to unite in support of Brahimi’s efforts but that has not happened.
Should Assad go now, as the rebels, Washington and the Europeans want, or later, as Moscow would prefer, after a period with a transitional leadership that could include members of Assad’s government? Russia has repeatedly said it is not wedded to Assad, although it has refused to abandon him. “For Russian President Vladimir Putin, it’s all about not compromising with America at the moment,” a senior Western diplomat said.
Diplomats and analysts say it is not Brahimi’s fault that he has failed. The veteran Algerian diplomat played down hopes that he could succeed from the outset. Richard Gowan of New York University said Brahimi’s modest approach has restored some of the UN credibility that was lost while Annan was the Syria mediator. “But [Brahimi’s] current peace plan is at least half a year out of date,” Gowan said. “The rebels simply will not buy it.”
Brahimi is pushing for a transitional government and has suggested he wants to build on an international agreement signed in Geneva one year ago that envisioned a provisional body — which might include members of Assad’s government as well as the opposition — leading the country to a new election.
“But this does not mean that Russia is ready to join the West, the Turks and the Arabs and demand that Assad go? That would be senseless. Syria is lost [to Russia] anyway,” he said. At least Russia “will be able to say that we do not abandon our friends,” said Georgy Mirsky, a Middle East expert with the Institute for World Economy and International Relations.
The international community had also issued early warnings to Damascus against the use of chemical weapons, after U.S. officials had determined that preparations were underway. In October, the Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned that the use of chemical weapons by Syria would provide “immediate reaction” from the international community.
A U.S. official said that Damascus was trying to mix the components needed for the militarization of sarin, a potent neurotoxin that causes paralysis and death. “A possible use of chemical weapons would be totally unacceptable to the international community. I expect an immediate response from the international community” if this was the case, said Mr Rasmussen before a meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Brussels.
The Syrian regime was recognized for the first time in late July 2012 to possess chemical weapons and threatened to use them if there was a western military intervention, but never against its own population.
With China and Russia blocking the draft resolutions of the UN Security Council to condemn President Bashar al-Assad but which they viewed as opening the door for the use of force, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lavrov reiterated, “Our priority is not the head of anyone, it is the end of violence and bloodshed…. Assad’s fate should be decided by the Syrian people, and not by outside parties and part of the Syrian opposition,”.
In the meantime, the carnage continues.
Said Temsamani, Senior Fellow at the Meridian International Center and former Senior Political Advisor, US Embassy, Morocco. Member of the National Press Club, Washington DC.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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