After almost 13 months and over 11,000 deaths, the conditions in Syria are woefully the same. A number of meetings, sanctions, condemnations, criticisms have failed to push Bashar al-Assad from slaughtering his own countrymen. Even UN envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan seems to be failing as Syria has not fully pulled out its troops and heavy weapons from towns.
The question arises whether Syria’s Assad is actually interested in peace. The answer is brutal, yet clear-cut: ‘No’. Bashar continues to claim that he wants peace for his fellow Syrians, but always cracks down brutally on the protests against his oppressive regime. Yes, he has even agreed to a ceasefire, but then why did his troops fired close to an advance team of UN observers who had been swarmed by protesters?
The incident must have given the UN people on ground a taste of the challenge they face in Syria.
Like father, like son. Hafez al-Assad, the father of Bashar, had also drawn crit
icism for repressing his own people. In fact, the 1982 Hama massacre during Hafez’s regime has been described by an American journalist as "the single deadliest act by any Arab government against its own people in the modern Middle East". Now, it is the turn of Bashar al-Assad to display his cruelty across Syria, especially Homs.
Annan’s ceasefire may have led to a drop in the number of killings in the following days, but the point is that accounts of terror and violence have ratcheted up since. It is highly doubtful, or almost uncertain (though I don’t want to sound pessimistic), that Syria could be another Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, or Yemen. The situation in Syria is much more complicated, and the West does realize that. Any such hope that imagines Syria sans Bashar is mere stupidity. The West can’t just overthrow the Syrian regime by backing the opposition.
The suggestions of setting up humanitarian corridors, idea of “paying salaries” to the Syrian opposition are not going to help the country which is at the brink of a civil war. Libya was actually a tribal society, Syria is not.
Also disappointing is the fact that there is no strong Syrian opposition. The opposition is not only disunited but also without a strategy. While several groups call for overthrowing the regime with the help of external military intervention, there are some who seek reform without regime change and others just want peaceful transition.
In fact, there is no unity among Syria’s neighbours and Gulf countries to deal with the situation. Saudi Arabia and Qatar back external military intervention, while Iraq and Lebanon call for political solution. Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has even warned that Bashar’s brutal crackdown on the opponents threatens to place him on a list of leaders who "feed on blood", while Iran shows support for the Syrian President.
The division on the issue could also be seen among key world powers. The US, the UK and France want Bashar Assad to step aside, while China and Russia support the path of dialogue and negotiation as the way out of the mess in Syria.
Violence has become a norm in Syria and the patience of the international community on the issue is exhausted. Enough blood has been spilled on the Syrian streets. The solution to the problem lies in political dialogue, not in military action. Bashar’s Arab allies should encourage him to hold talks with the opposition. Any attempts to turn the Syrian crisis into a military issue would prove to be catastrophic. But will Bashar get engaged in talks? Only God knows.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)