As the conflict situation in Syria deepens, little political, diplomatic, or humanitarian options are left to the international community to address what is becoming a major human rights issue. We asked our Zintro experts to comment on the crisis.
Tomas Nordberg, an expert in international relations, says that international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has declared the Annan peace plan a tool in his toolbox. “It is extremely important that Brahimi uses the Annan plan in his efforts to make peace in Syria. The plan is a carefully drafted document that stands the greatest chance of producing a peaceful solution of the conflict,” explains Nordberg. “Brahimi and Annan are both experienced and skilled peacemakers. Annan´s method in dealing with Saddam Hussein focused on direct talks. Brahimi should attempt the same in dealing with Assad.”
Since Russia and China are not likely to back down, Nordberg points out, Assad feels he can continue with his policies. The diplomatic and political pressure on Russia and China must be intensified with the goal of reaching agreement in the UN Security Council. This is one option that the international community has to force Assad to agree to a ceasefire and a political solution to the conflict, he says.
“The international community must consider all its options. Brahimi and his team must work around the clock to come up with a negotiated solution based on the Annan peace plan. A ceasefire is the most urgent development. In addition, there should be increased efforts on the part of political leaders around the world to make Assad accept humanitarian assistance to people inside Syria. Aid organizations must be allowed to help people in need,” says Nordberg.
If a negotiated solution can not be reached, then the international community must consider other options, including establishing a no-fly zone and/or a humanitarian corridor inside Syria, Nordberg recommends. “Of course Russia and China are major obstacles in this regard. It is possible they can be convinced to agree to a Security Council resolution condemning the violence and human rights violations and threatening further actions in case the situation does not improve. The Arab League, the United States, the European Union and all UN member states must focus on diplomatic efforts to persuade Russia and China to change their positions,” he says.
Nordberg suggests that the UN General Assembly should use the Uniting for Peace option to condemn the war and push for an end to the conflict. “This is a way to circumvent the deadlock in the Security Council. In addition, all states must actively support Brahimi. A humanitarian intervention is one option, possible carried out by a Coalition of the Willing, similar to what happened during the Kosovo war. Other options include economic and political sanctions, especially smart sanctions. A peaceful ending to the conflict is the goal and diplomacy, including increased political and diplomatic pressure on Assad to cease fighting, which is key to saving lives in Syria,” he says.
George Ajjan, an international political strategist, says that few good options face the international community. “The longer the Syrian conflict drags on, the more death of civilians as well as soldiers will occur. With those deaths, many times more embittered and angry citizens will have lost their loved ones, and more refugees will begin to move. While the early days of the conflict resulted in largely internal displacement, the acceleration of the fighting is now en route to creating a refugee crisis, and the less likely a national reconciliation can be realized, Ajjan predicts.
Expatriate groups are quick to say all the right things, most notably the recently launched Day After project, says Ajjan, assembled with the help of the United States Institute for Peace, but without a real military buy-in and a way to create actual physical cooperation between armed elements, such initiatives are merely word processing exercises.
In the meantime, all actors continue to hedge their bets. “The Syrian regime bombards heavily, but no where near its full capacity, while the patrons of the fighters (Saudi Arabia/Qatar/Turkey with tacit if not overt American/European approval) continue to channel funds and weapons to weaken the regime, although they know full well that the current imbalance of force offers no chance for a total revolutionary victory,” says Ajjan.
Ajjan says that it is possible that the disposition of Russia and China could move the process toward a face-saving deal that could stop the fighting by removing Assad and his inner circle but preserve Syria’s alignment in its sphere of influence.
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