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Musa A Keilani: Crises see no deadline
May 23, 2012
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

Summary executions, blanket siege of towns and villages, detention with torture, these are some of the features of the all-out war that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad is waging against his own people.

It has been going on for nearly 15 months now, but the international community has not been able to prevent the Syrian regime from continuing its bloody crackdown. Indeed, the Syrian opposition has also been putting up a fight, but it is rather ineffective in the face of the state security apparatus, which seems to have been trained for exactly the purpose of crushing any challenge to the regime as much as fighting external intervention.

The atrocities being committed in Syria were underlined in a report drawn up by a UN committee last week containing accounts of systematic torture in Syria, as well as summary executions, snipers picking off civilians and arrests of the wounded in hospitals.

Other charges included the torture of detainees and journalists as well as arbitrary arrests.

The Assad regime is playing a cat-and-mouse game against the United Nations and the Arab League, the two organisations actively engaged in efforts for a negotiated settlement of the crisis. It has allowed a team of UN observers who have been largely ineffective so far in following up a plan drawn up by special UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

The plan bases itself on a premise that a solution could be found through negotiations between the regime and the opposition. One fails to see any room for such a way out of the crisis because the regime has lost its legitimacy.

From the very outset of the rebellion, Damascus has been blaming “terrorists” for the violence and accused “foreign powers” of funding and arming the revolt. It is continuing the same song even today.

Assad’s deceptive approach was reaffirmed in a Russian television interview last week.

Assad described the armed opposition as a gang of “criminals” who he said included religious extremists, including members of Al Qaeda, and said that many “foreign mercenaries” from Arab states are fighting for the rebels and some of them had been killed.

The May 7th legislative elections held in Syria, Assad said, showed that the Syrian people “are until now supporting the policy of reform” and “support the institutions of the state.”

The difference here is that it was the desperate people of Syria who launched the rebellion and there was no armed opposition in the initial stages. It was not until several months into the revolt – when the regime stepped up its crackdown – that the opposition used firearms, most of them military weapons that were taken by Syrian soldiers when they chose to desert.

It was clear from the very beginning that the regime would stop at nothing in order to fight off any challenge to its survival.

The systematic village-to-village, town-to-town crackdown that the regime has been implementing sent a clear message to this effect to the international community.

The world knew and knows what is going on in Syria and of the deceptive game played by the regime, which has by far surpassed the brutality of the ousted regime of Libyan strongman Muammar Qadhafi and of the toppled Yemeni autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Thousands of Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries, mainly Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan which host 114,000 refugees.

Syrians have not much of an option while choosing where to go. Syrian spies and informants are active in Lebanon. Syrians fleeing the crackdown are unwelcome in Iraq, whose regime sympathises with Assad.

Turkey has set up a camp for displaced Syrians and offering assistance.

Jordan has kept an open policy for Syrians landing in its territory.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that foreign weapons are reaching the Syrian opposition, but they could not be counted for much effectiveness against a state military and security force.

The Syrian opposition seems to be divided. The ethnic and sectarian divides among the people of Syria seem as wide as ever. An example is the two million Kurds of Syria. They hope to gain some form of an autonomy for themselves in a hypothetical post-Assad Syria, but some of the so-called Syrian opposition leaders have bluntly told them they should harbour no such hopes.

The Kurds are now staying out of the opposition but it is clear that they are planning their moves on their own.

In the meantime, the reality on the ground is that support for the 41-year-old Assad family regime is declining. However, major segments of the armed forces, the numerous intelligence and security agencies, the powerful Alawite minority, most Syrian Christians, tribal elements, the Druze community and much of the Syrian elite still support the regime.

The Iranian regime is backing Assad to the hilt because a regime change in Syria will be a major blow to Tehran’s posture as a regional superpower.

Russia and China remain opposed to effective United Nations action to end the crisis through stepped up pressure against the Damascus regime.

Any effort to end the crisis in Syria needs strong and forceful international action.

However, no such action seems to be forthcoming, at least not in the open. There are signs of a regional alliance against Syria, but it is taking its own time organising and supporting the Syrian rebellion.

The question is for how many months more do we have to wait for the so-called fermentation process to mature enough into bringing peace and stability to Syria?
The author a former jordanian ambassador, is the chief editor of  Al Urdun weekly in Amman

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