24/02/2012

The Syrian deadlock

While the bombs are still falling in some districts of Homs, repression becomes increasingly violent and opposition becomes increasingly armed and determined. More than sixty countries are represented in Tunis, Friday, Feb. 24, for a meeting  » Friends of Syria « who wishes to define a plan of international humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people and intensify pressure on Damascus. The meeting will probably appeal the ruling regime in Damascus to implement a cease-fire and allow access for humanitarian agencies to populations in distress, especially in Homs. It will also urge the opposition, fragmented, to unite and come together.

The next response from the international community will no doubt recognize the Syrian National Council (SNC) as the legitimate representative of Syria. However, the SNC is only a part of the opposition, and no Kurdish or Alawite is represented within it. The safety of minorities in a post-Assad Syria is not yet guaranteed by the SNC. Bashar al-Assad is still supported by part of the Sunni majority, particularly in the business community, who have benefited during 30 years of a favorable economic environment.

Such a response should therefore be taken only after having insurance that the SNC represents a credible alternative and that it represents well the Syrian diversity. In other words, it is important to know if it can ensure a democratic transition that guarantees both the exercise of individual freedoms that the security of every Syrian citizen. For now the answer to this question seems negative.

This meeting of « Friends of Syria » is presented by the regime of Bashar al-Assad as an American-Zionist conspiracy, while the (CNS) pushes them to foreign intervention. Although this solution is presented by some as the « best » one to get out of the crisis, the Iraqis and Libyans examples tend to prove that this solution is not a panacea. The precipitous fall of Assad would lead either to civil war that would force Western troops to remain for years on site or on the takeover of Sunni Islamists, hardly an attractive alternative. Moreover, this intervention should take place outside the United Nations – China and Russia will oppose it – which will make it very soon unpopular with public opinion in countries involved.

« Friends of Syria » will limit themselves so certainly to support the plan of the Arab League which steps a democratic transition in Syria. Although this plan has the merit of proposing a peaceful solution to the current crisis, it remains the work of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two regimes more interested in the elimination of one of the allies of Iran, their sworn enemy, than in the promotion of democracy and social justice, what they do not even offer to their own citizens.

The situation in Syria is in a complete deadlock. The opposition – or rather the oppositions – is unable to overthrow the regime and the regime is unable to overcome opposition. The international community, itself divided on the answer to the crisis, is also stuck in this deadlock and can currently only offer humanitarian aid. Meanwhile the repression continues, foreign fighters and weapons are flowing into Syria and the specter of civil war is approaching quickly.

Geoffroy d’Aspremont