Why Not Syria?

"Why Not Syria?" 
This was a hot topic of conversation at the Paris Air Show where I have been this week.

As the civilian body-count mounts in Syria, I am puzzled by the lack of international action, or even effective condemnation. 

The international community was caught totally unprepared for the events of historical magnitude which have rolled across the Arab world during “The Arab Spring”.

The self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a sole unemployed student demonstrator in Tunisia in December 2010 led to mass demonstrations which successively toppled regimes in both Tunisia (President Ben Ali) and Egypt (Hosni Mubarak).

Still hanging by a thread are the dictators of Libya (Muammar Gaddafi) and Yemen (Ali Abdullah Saleh).

Bahrain seems to have pulled itself back from the brink – probably because on March 14, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates entered Bahrain, to prop up their fellow Sunnis in Bahrain.

Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad has been ruthlessly stamping out mass dissent in many of his country’s towns and villages, such as Homs, Aleppo, Banias, al-Hasakah, Daraa, Deir ez-Zor, and Hama  – and to a lesser degree on the streets of Damascus itself.

In only one of these cases did the international community make any difference.

On 17 March, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 was adopted, authorising a no-fly zone over Libya, and "all necessary measures" to protect civilians.

Two days later, France, the United States and the United Kingdom intervened in Libya with a bombing campaign against pro-Gaddafi forces. A coalition of 27 states from Europe and the Middle East soon joined the intervention. The forces were driven back from the outskirts of Benghazi, and the rebels mounted an offensive, capturing scores of towns across the coast of Libya.

However, this is proving to be quite financially costly, and has highlighted less than overwhelming performance by NATO. Only a third of NATO countries are participating in the bombing mission, and three months later, the eccentric dictator is still alive and is firmly holding power in Tripoli.

The active NATO participants are already hearing political rumbles at home, about the financial costs of the campaign (in the UK the cost has been estimated at ₤250m; in the USA at $1 Billion; in France at $126 million…) - in a time of wobbly economies and already shrinking defence budgets. 

Meantime, back in Syria, Bashar Assad has sent tanks, helicopters and ground troops to stamp out demonstrations. With over 1100 civilians reportedly killed by Government forces, and tens of thousands arrested and/or “disappeared”, and around 10,000 refugees flowing into Turkey for safety, it looks likes a human rights violation on a huge scale.

So where is the UN; where is NATO?  

Also, the EU and the USA expressed condemnation and have imposed some (mild) sanctions – but they are a long way from physically intervening to stop the bloodbath.

The UN Security Council is being blocked from issuing any condemnation with teeth, by Russia and China. These countries, which both hold veto, are reported to now regret supporting the intervention in Libya. Apparently they never understood “protecting civilians” to be giving a green light for a NATO bombing campaign.  

And even if this Russia + China obstacle could somehow be by-passed or overcome at the UN, there seems little enthusiasm by anyone to take military action against Syria.

One recalls that the USA exhausted themselves, politically and militarily, invading Iraq, deposing  Saddam Hussain, and then mopping up the vast mess thereafter - and so found themselves unwilling or unable to take any actions against the Iranian nuclear threat.

Similarly here, I suggest the Libyan campaign has disabled the West from taking appropriate military action in Syria.

Ironically, Turkey, which has invested vast political capital in warming their relations with Syria over the past few years, has been the closest to taking firm steps against Syria.      

Prompted by the refugee flow from Syria into south eastern Turkey, the Turkish army is reported to be massing on the border, facing off against the Syrian  army. There are open discussions in the Turkish press about Turkish troops establishing a safe corridor in Syria itself for civilians.

Turkey has also issued condemnation of the slaughter in Syria, pointing the finger at their erstwhile friend Bashar Assad and have hosted a conference for Syrian opposition groups on Turkish soil.

One hopes that the West is, at least, running clandestine missions to practically aid the forces for democracy in Syria. This would somewhat counter the Iranian assistance of the Syrians, and would mirror the initial involvement of British, French and US special forces (“advisors”) to assist the Libyan rebels in the early days of the civil war.

This having been said, any way you paint it, the public display of impotence by the international community in the face of vast human rights abuse in Syria, has been universal.

Where is the outrage? Where is the will to protect unarmed civilians from murder and tyranny by the well equipped and ruthless Syrian army?


  1. Since the signing of the Oslo Discord the West has been courting the Assads, doing their best to present them as decent, upstanding folks in order to get Israel to surrender Golan to them. Now they're stuck. How do you condemn the guy you've been praising ever since he took power? And what's the point of military intervention considering it hasn't made a difference in Libya?


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