Posts Tagged ‘Syrian rebellion’

Syria takes to the streets

How should the West react?

I am re-publishing my original article on the situation in Syria, originally published on 23rd December, and before Syria became the issue du jour on the nightly news, because my conclusion then seems even more pressing today.

Sadly, what I predicted them – a full-scale civil war that threatens to spill over into neighbouring countries and embroil the area in an unpredictable and murderous regional conflict – is even more likely than it was a couple of months ago, if it could not be said to be enthusiastically underway already.

I return to my thesis of before Christmas. Distasteful as it may be to contemplate, the Assad regime is not only vicious and cruel, it is also proving extraordinarily difficult to dislodge. Atrocity is heaped on atrocity – even if, sadly, we only really pay attention when brave western journalists are deliberately targeted and killed and injured – and the situation, already bloody in the extreme, threatens to spiral utterly out of control.

The simple fact is, if you thought the mess in Libya was protracted, and you are disappointed that the flowering of democracy in Egypt merely appears to have resulted in the same bad guys remaining in charge under a different name, then get used to being depressed, because the situation in Syria is infinitely more complex and even less likely to provide a neat solution sensible to Western tastes.

Whilst the rebellion is now unlikely to be put down successfully, the infinitely stronger and better equipped government forces can continue to wreak havoc on rebel areas for many months or years. There is no widespread desire to replace Assad in the capital as a whole, not because it is a highly successful regime, but merely because the capital of this relatively modern and essentially secular country fears the arrival of an incoming Islamic regime even more.

Whilst Assad and his cronies must, eventually, step aside for there to be a lasting settlement, with no obvious “out” they will cling to power – stubbornly – for a long time yet, and the country is rapidly degenerating into a “failed state” governed by competing factions and warlords. The stage is set for a humanitarian disaster that will make the civilian casualties in the Arab Spring thus far look like a merely prelude to the main tragic opera.

I repeat what I said below: there needs to be a circuit breaker, and the circuit breaker, much as even saying it sticks in my craw, is to create a safe haven for the Government and its more enmeshed Baathist fascists.

Many will remain behind, and de-Baathification of some future Syria is a myth. Just as with Iraq, the other country ruled for a generation by a brutal Baathist strongman, they will be needed to ensure a continuance of civil society after the Assad dynasty and its most ironed-on supporters have been spirited away – to Russia, perhaps, which has proven entirely disruptive of any attempt to bring its satellite to heel.

So shout “Assad out” for all you’re worth, by all means. He and the shadowy figures behind him will not be missed. But remember, as you do, that the only way to actually achieve “Assad out”  without tens of thousands of casualties will be exactly that – an out, for Assad, and the rest of his miserable crew.

And if you don’t want to re-read the original article, just flick to the bottom, and buy the damn tee shirt.

The original article is below

Ignore cafe society trudging on unconcerned in parts of Damascus. There is a genuine and widespread rebellion going on in Syria, yet the reporting of its scale to the west is patchy. Sadly, the regime’s determination to hang on is resulting in many more thousands of deaths than previously feared, at least 400 of which have been children. Read more here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/22/6200-killed-in-syrian-crackdown

It should also be said that the anti-Assad forces may well also be responsible for horrible atrocities. (See the Robert Fisk article below.)

The West’s response to all this, thus far, apart from some ineffectual chest beating, has been muted. Does this reflect that the West would rather a weak President Assad still in place that they can control rather than an unknown, unquantifiable and possibly pro-Islamic-extremist opposition?

Let us be clear. The longer the aspirations of the Syrian people are crushed, the more fundamentalist, non-secular and anti-Western the incoming regime will be. It is time for the West to be unambiguously on the side of the angels, and the angels are emphatically not Assad and his cronies.

No, no: I do not mean the West should invade Syria on behalf of the rebels, or any other sort of militarist posturing or adventuring. But back channels must now be used effectively to ensure that the true leaders in the military-Baathist alliance realise that the game is well and truly up, and they must make way for a new and more democratic Syria, or inevitably end up hanging from street lights themselves.

And if necessary – and let us say the unsayable here – safe haven must be found for current regime insiders – yes, including Assad and his family themselves – stomach-turning though that prospect may be – in order to prevent the possible loss of tens of thousands of innocent lives in a full-scale civil war.

Time is short. And as this article by the eminent British writer Robert Fisk enumerates, the fear of the coming conflict embroiling next-door Lebanon is very real too.

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/robert-fisk-shadow-of-syrian-conflict-stretching-into-lebanon-2630243.html

These are dangerous times indeed, and needless to say, if we do not manage them correctly, then the real losers will be – overwhelmingly – innocent men, woman and children who simply dream of living in peace and freedom. It would be easy to despair, but we cannot. This situation must be resolved, or we abandon the innocents to the militia, the armed lunatics, and fanatics, and the psychopaths.

On all sides.

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http://www.cafepress.com/yolly.431431249

Stop bombing civilians

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