29/05/2012

Syria: humanitarian catastrophe and impotence of diplomacy

According to the report of the United Nations (UN) on the Syrian crackdown, from March 2011 until last May there were nearly 10,000 deaths as a result of the conflict and thousands of cases of violations of human rights. The majority of war crimes were committed by military forces of the Syrian army and, in particular, against deserters. The UN plan hasn’t calmed the violence and, according to the report, the conflict has become increasingly militarized. The report exposes many executions committed in private houses and, also, detention and torture of children.

On 25th May, at Hula, in the Syrian province of Homs, were killed about 110 civilians including 50 children: some victims have died as a result of artillery fire and others were massacred by the forces of Syrian regime, but State media have accused groups linked to al-Qaeda to be the perpetrators. The scenes of the massacre have been filmed and broadcasted on YouTube, causing indignation of the international community: in particular, the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who condemned the atrocities of the massacre and the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, who said that she was “horrified by the news of the brutal massacre”. The Security Council of the UN approved unanimously, including Russia, which has still been the principal ally of the government of Damascus, a document that condemns the massacre. The Russian State was an ally of Syria for decades and he has vetoed two Security Council resolutions of the UN condemning the atrocities committed by the Syrian regime. However, although Russia to follow its economic and strategic interests, it can’t appear anymore as the defender of a violent and repressive regime.

Recently two ships, one Russian (Professor Katsman) and one North Korean (Odai), were sighted off Syrian ports and, according to several media in the Middle East, they were carrying war material probably intended to Syrian regime. Indeed, in developing its programs on weapons of mass destruction, it’s estimated that Syria has received direct forms of assistance from Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. The main reason that would push the country to acquire weapons would be its own defence against the Israeli threat. The International Community expressed concern about the fate of the arsenal of ballistic missiles and chemical weapons in Syria in the case of a collapse of the regime: paradoxically, the best result in terms of control of the arsenal of weapons of mass destruction of Syria would be to retain the power of President Bashar al-Assad, but this seems less likely.

The solution to end the violence, according to Barack Obama, could come from Yemen. President of the United States of America would propose the exile for al-Assad. Barack Obama and Russian President, Vladimir Putin, will meet in June to discuss the possible solution in Syria, a key-country for the balance of the Middle East. Probably, Obama will press for the departure of Syrian President and to manage the transition period with his government, as happened in Yemen. Meanwhile, on 28th May, the special envoy of the UN and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan, arrived in Damascus with a full agenda of meetings and burdens of responsibility, the largest of which takes place on 29th May, since he’ll meet al-Assad.

UN report: UNCHR Syria – Periodic update

GIACOMO MORABITO

University of Messina