Millennium Post

Scramble for Syria

As expected, Kofi Annan has returned empty handed from Syria. He was visiting the embattled Arab Republic to impress upon the government of president Bashar al-Assad that it has to create a suitable road map for peace. But Bashar has given him the same stoic silence that he has given to all outside powers who have shown concern about Syria's future. Syria has been besieged by a 15-month strife with rebels who want to topple the government in which many see echoes of the wider Spring Uprising that has swept across the Arab peninsula since early last year!  

Annam's visit to Syria came in the wake of widespread concern about the actions of the government and the rebels and on either side, there is no hint of a ceasefire, while thousands have died in endless acts of retributive violence across Syria since the beginning of the strife. The government has throughout blamed outside powers for arming the rebels and has squarely put the onus of peace on them. The situation has been further complicated by the slaughter of 100 people in the Syrian town of Houla last week, half of them women and children, in a massacre that drew huge condemnation and angry words from both the western powers and the UN.

The western powers are divided about the next course of action. The US is not keen on military action though France is, if sanctioned by the UN Security Council. What many experts feel is that the country could well head towards a full blown civil war and only a Kosovo-like intervention may stop further escalation of violence in the country. For the moment, eleven countries, led by the US, have either asked their diplomats to get out of Syria or have asked Syrian diplomats to pack up and leave. Diplomatic pressure will continue, the UN has also hinted. But given the way that the UN has been systematically defanged since the Gulf wars, it is unlikely that the UN alone or its diplomatic anger will incite Bashar into action.

But the western powers are not the only one seeking to fish in troubled waters, as they had done in Libya. Iran has sent troops in support of Bashar, an action that the western powers may see as a provocation because on the whole, the west has been trying to see the Syrian rebellion as part of the wider Arab uprising, which it supported.

At the moment the western powers and irritable neighbours like Iran must stay out and let the Syrian government reign in the cycle of violence. Anything else may prove counterproductive. But wanton acts of violence in any country ought to be a matter of international concern and Bashar cannot just expect to do nothing while blaming the rebels. He, after all, is the government. If he decides to sit idle while thousands die, he may well invite cocky responses from the more powerful western powers, which responses are unlikely to be to his liking. 
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