Osburn: Violence in Syria raises political concernsWritten by Ben Osburn | | email@example.com
The Syrian Uprising has not only proven to be a civil war, but an ongoing international conflict, one in which little rectitude has been shown. As part of the broader Arab Spring, the uprising started back in March 2011, when protestors flooded the Syrian streets calling for the resignation of Bashar al-Assad and the end of the Ba’ath Party’s rule. The violence has escalated ever since. Participation from the international community, namely the U.N., has convoluted the consensus process.
The insurgents, known as the Free Syrian Army, have been the driving force behind Assad’s fall. Former Syrian Air Force colonel Riad-al Assad leads the group. Assad, as well as the majority of the organization’s members, defected from the Syrian Armed Forces. The group is largely unorganized and has no political goals other than to throw Bashar from power. Though claiming not to be sectarian, the group has formed alliances with other segments of the population. One of them is the Alawis, a Syrian government opposition group who follows Shia Islam. They label members of the Syrian Army who pursue civilian attacks as being enemy combatants.
Bashar has been subject to international and domestic criticism for the past decade. He has been a vocal critic of the United States’ defense of Israel and been accused of providing aid to militant foes of that country. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Bashar had been accused by former U.S. General George Casey of financing the Iraqi insurgents. The bulk of the criticism from the Syrian people has been due to Bashar’s denial of basic human rights. The government impedes Syrian right to privacy by blocking the use of social networking sites and recording all comments left in Internet chat rooms. International travel is also banned for dissidents of the regime. A 2010 report released by The Human Rights Watch organization stated Bashar’s administration routinely murders, tortures and imprisons political opponents who speak against the regime, a process done with intentional secrecy.
Violence in the region has consistently risen. According the United Nations, nearly 10,000 people have died in the conflict, including children. Hundreds of civilians from human rights, political activist, and even media groups have been arrested during the uprising, many of which are accused of spying on behalf of opposition groups. The uprising had caused many to leave their homes and seek refuge in countries like Jordan and Turkey. An estimated 120,000 Syrians are in the process of moving.
Western nations as well as the Arab League have been condemning the use of violence against the protesters since the uprising’s start. Nations including Britain, Spain and Canada have cut ties to Bashar’s government, mostly in the form of economic aid. The Arab League and the United Nations have been the most successful in creating peace plans, though their implementation has been quelled. Working with the Arab League, the United Nations has been slow to impose sanctions against Syria due to lack of international consensus. China, and Russia have provided roadblocks to the process.
Both China and Russia vetoed U.N. measures that would have called for an Assad resignation and sanctions until the occurrence. The veto represents a continued stance taken by both nations in opposing Syrian intervention, be it military or a regime change. However, this declaration conflicts with reports that Russia, a long time Syrian ally, has been involved militarily in the conflict. Russian news reports released in previous months have stated that the country has both armed Syrian government supporters and has sent military ships to assist the Syrian army.
Conversely, both nations do support the U.N. created Peace Plan. The peace plan, spearheaded by Ghanaian diplomat Kofi Annan, was at one point considered the most viable plan to end the violence. The six-point plan called for a cease-fire and negotiations led by Annan to address both parties’ concerns. The plan, although initially agreed to by Bashar, deteriorated due to lack of the regime’s commitment. A new peace plan has been proposed by Annan to the United Nations.
Iran provides another obstacle for peace in Syria. The nation, another Syrian ally, has been indirectly involved in the conflict as well. Both the United States and the United Nations have accused the Iranians of funneling weapons to the Syrian army as well as intelligence. The involvement of Iran puts America and its U.N. allies in a conundrum. Iran is already under intense pressure from the international community because of its nuclear weapons program. Should the U.N. decide to seek further action against Iran because of this, it could escalate the Syrian conflict.
One thing that is for certain is that American or international military intervention does not appear to be in the future. A 60-nation meeting of the group Friends of Syria will discuss ways to, as Secretary of State Hilary Clinton calls it, “allow the transition to a democratic Syria to begin.” Those ways include further economic sanctions, but no use of military force. The United States sends humanitarian aid to the Syrian opposition. While some members of Congress have called for a more aggressive stance, including arms funneling and bombings, critics say the cost would too great and would lead to a lack of clarity as to how long the U.S. would be engaged in the conflict.