The international society has been waiting patiently for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Major international institutions such as the United Nations called for international actions to prevent civil war in Syria; and the Arab League has imposed economic sanctions against Syria earlier due to its government crackdown in the past few months. The UN estimated the death toll is at least 5,400 people have been killed since March 2011. Canada’s Nation Post visualized the death toll in the form of graphic presentation, illustrating 6,375 people have been killed, among the dead, 99.4% were Syrian citizens.
The most interesting development in the Syrian Uprising is the determination of Assad to remain on the thrown, while the world has been continuously condemning his killing of the civilians, or even being named as a ‘killing machine’. In the last few weeks, Assad and his supporters organized pro-government rally on the streets, waving Syrian flags and chanting songs defending for the Assad regime.
While the opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), has been recognized as Syria’s legitimate government by Libya and some NATO and EU countries. The SNC campaigned “Towards a Peaceful Transition to Democracy in Syria” statement, calling for:
- Rewriting of the constitution to guarantee basic rights and checks and balances
- Separation of powers between and among the executive, legislative and judiciary
- Immediate end to extrajudicial, special, martial and field courts
- Release of all political prisoners
- Commitment to non-interference in the affairs of Lebanon
- Repositioning of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the forefront of Syrian foreign policy aims
- Formation of a free and independent media
- Development of the economy and more investment in infrastructure
- Formation of a truth and reconciliation committee to investigate crimes of the regime
- Compensation for political exiles and disappeared political prisoners
- Political rights for the Syrian Kurdish minority
- Military supervision of a transitional government
Source – The Syrian opposition: Political analysis with original testimony from key figures
Despite the growth in the number of death, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad went to the Damascus Square on Jan 11 to meet the pro-regime crowd in public. Assad addressed to his supporters, saying:
“We cannot relent in the battle against terrorism. We strike with an iron fist against terrorists who have been brainwashed. We are nearing the end of the crisis. We should be united.” Assad blamed on “foreign conspiracy” for the cause of the crackdown, he said: “Syria was threatened with bombing and invasion. We will never allow them to defeat Syria. Resistance is the core of our identity.”
“Without a doubt, we will defeat the conspiracy, which is nearing its end and will also be the end for (the conspirators) and their plans. We will make this phase the last one of the conspiracy.”
In another occasion, Assad delivered a speech at Damascus University, promising future hopes to the Syrians, which included: dialogue with the opposition; promise of renewed constitution in March 2012, which meant an early referendum allowing multi-party elections by then. The entire transcript of Assad’s speech can be downloaded here.
“I want to make sure that there will be a national referendum because the constitution is not for the country but it is on the interest of each Syrian citizen. We will have the referendum after the committee finishes its work and gives the constitution. We will put it in the constitution channels, aiming to go to the referendum and the referendum on a new constitution is expected in March. We welcome the participation of all of the political forces and we have begun to talk to them recently to take their opinion in the participation and they have answered positively.”
US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton described Assad’s speech as “chillingly cynical“, what Assad meant by “conspiracies” also included the Syrian opposition, the international community, all international media outlets and the Arab League itself. Assad has blamed media fabrications for the unrest, therefore, most foreign media outlets are now barred from independent reporting. An independent journalist Lizzie Phelan, who is currently in Damascus, told RT that the objectivity of reports coming from Syria is increasingly being questioned:
“There were some reports that the area of Al-Zabadani, near the Lebanese border, had been taken by the Free Syrian Army. And now, I went there myself, the last night, and as I drove to Zabadani, I was very surprised to find no check-points by the Syrian army on the way, and I was actually allowed to go inside Zabadani. And despite having seen footage on the television of convoys of Free Syrian Army fighters, I found that there was actually nothing there.”
What we know about Syria from news agency or media – are they the information controlled or filtered by the regime? How can we know the truth? The situation in Syria is getting increasingly sophisticated.
Involvement of Arab League
Syria, being one of the member states of the Arab League, has been exerting pressure against Assad regime to stop the bloodshed, by imposing sanctions in late November 2011. The League has launched a monitoring mission in Syria, a team of observers was sent to Syria on December 27, hoping that the observers could provide sufficient political and physical protection to protesters. So far, around 70 inspectors have arrived the hot spots.
One of the inspectors, Anwar Malek, survived an assassination attempt in the city of Homs, where the first western journalist was killed during a pro-regime rally. The Algerian inspector Malek spoke to The Sunday Telegraph that he was “threatened to death”, he was ordered to stay in the hotel for a long period of time, and he was spied over his activity. The power of the Arab League monitors is in doubt, the inspectors do not possess genuine power in scrutinizing the Syrian regime, they do not have personal bodyguards or independent army to protect their safety. The mission does not have a clear direction and goal in eliminating the bloodshed in Syria.
Is it the time for international institutions such as the United Nations to intervene – by introducing a legitimate resolution in the Security Council – to introduce the UN Army to protect the Syrian civilians?
Pro-Assad countries: Russia, China, India, South Africa, Iran
Against Assad countries: UK, France, United States, Germany, Turkey
Syria and Iran have forged a close alliance by supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine, and British Prime Minister David Cameron has accused Tehran for supplying arms to Syrian security forces.
As Financial Times has put it, some analysts say that if international diplomacy fails to bring an end to the violence, the country will lurch towards a broader violent conflict.
- Reuters: In cradle of Syrian revolt, army is now in charge
- Reuters: Syria killings persist as Arab monitors’ mandate expires
- LA Times: Several motives in stiff Russia support for Syria, observers say
- The Atlantic: Syrian Kurd Leader: Revolution Won’t Succeed Without Minorities
- USA Today: Obama says violence in Syria is ‘unacceptable’