As we watch the continued Syrian bloodbath, we are seeing some effort to recover from the UN Security Council vetoes by Russia and China of a sanctions, cease fire, and process of regime change resolution. While the al-Assad proposed referendum on a new constitution aims to quiet the dissent, given the killing, it is unlikely to be accepted by the opposition as it does not remove the present rulers. It seems like an effort to buy time to continue with repressive measures.
China and Russia have or are going to send missions to Assad but so far they have had no success in stopping the killing. The best solution would be if Assad would step down but this remains unlikely.
Now the UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly (137 in favor, 12 against, and 17 abstained) for a similar but non-binding resolution, which will, in effect, throw the ball into the court of the Arab League, EU, Turkey, and a “Friends of Syria” group supported by the U.S. The aim is to get help for the opposition and, if possible, to establish a broad national unity provisional government. But the issue is how to act effectively to get the incipient but very deadly civil war to speedily stop; that probably will require multilateral peacekeeping forces not only to separate the contenting sides but ensure that a dangerous revenge and brutal “score setting” process is mitigated and to permit diplomacy and conciliation as well as civic society to function.
The Syrians themselves must also come together so that all groups have a role, the rights of minorities are ensured, and rule of law and democracy are established by any new government. The inducement could be recognition by the international community. Such an effort might even move Russia and China to stop their backing of Bashar al-Assad.
Yet the real issue is whether there is a strategy that can stop in short order the carnage that is still taking place engendered by a determined and dictatorial al-Assam regime. This biog early on advocated the use of an international intervention peacekeeping and peacemaking force after a General Assembly UN resolution was passed and supported by the Arab League. Some Gulf States later supported informally such a peacekeeping effort but clearly wanted even broader backing by others. The UN Human Rights Commissioner also supported international efforts to stop the killings.
Now the time has come and several requirements and actions are needed. The first is a consensus among the key actors – namely the Arab league, Turkey, the EU, possibly NATO, as well as humanitarian units of the UN system such as UNHCR, UNDP. Each can provide their resources especially to deal with the refugees and those at risk, to supply medical help and food, and to get the economy started again.
Some commentators have said that it would take months for an effort to get underway…that is months in which the Assam regime can pound into the ground the civilian population and leave added thousands dead. That is not acceptable since the resources sufficient to stop the killing exist and need simply a “go” from the key political leaders. Here Turkey is key. Again, as we have noted, this can all be done without U.S. boots on the ground but with some logistic support, economic assistance, and perhaps some help with a no flight zone being established.
By Harry C. Blaney III.