Syrian Conundrum

Where lies the key to political settlement



Another country in middle-east is on the boil. While the dust in Egypt and Libya is yet to settle down, the crisis in Syria has assumed alarming proportions. According to some estimates at-least 32,000 people have died in the last nineteen months while the Alawite-dominated regime of Bashar al-Assad persists with its power, although its control has slipped in parts of the country. As tensions continue to escalate, so does the risk of general spillover effects in this particularly sensitive region. So far, the international community has failed to take significant action to end the quagmire. The main concern of the international community today is that Syria has already entered into a state of civil war and has become deeply militarized. It seems that there is no political space for a peaceful settlement. Nevertheless, what the country needs is not a military intervention, but a political solution reached through negotiations.
The advocacy for direct military intervention in Syria is on the rise. According to some sources, the Western-Arab alliance is all set for military intervention. However, some military experts have warned that a military intervention in Syria would not be a straightforward task that is sometimes portrayed to be. Syria enjoys a greater military capacity to resist an intervention than Libya. Assad’s air defense systems are approximately five times more sophisticated than were Gaddafi’s. They are also placed around densely populated areas, meaning that bombings, whatever their precision, would cause greater civilian casualties.
A political settlement has to remain the international community’s priority. At the Geneva conference in June 2012, the foreign ministers of the five U.N. Security Council permanent members and those of Turkey, Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq agreed on a first compromise for a political transition process. This agreement is not a U.N. resolution but just a communiqué. It provides the best roadmap for peace so far. The guidelines did not require Assad’s withdrawal from power as a pre-condition to the transition process. The agreement suggested that the transitional government “could include members of the present government, the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent.” The participation of members of the present government will also reassure minorities of dangers such as ethnic cleansing.
Prof. Noor Ahmad Baba (an expert on middle-eastern affairs in Kashmir University) argues that the international community must intensify diplomatic pressure on Russia, as it holds the key to any political settlement. Russia needs to be convinced that a regime change in Syria would not affect its influence and interests in the region. On the other hand, Russia needs to realise that a prolonged support to a regime that is destined to fall might greatly hurt its long term interests. Regarding the use of chemical weapons by Asad’s regime, Prof. Baba warns that it is the most unwarranted thing the incumbent regime would do and it would draw outright military intervention by the international community. The White House has also made it clear that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad’s regime would represent a “red line” that would mandate military intervention.

(Sajad Padder is a PhD student in the department of Political Science, University of Kashmir, Srinagar. Email:

Lastupdate on : Sun, 23 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 23 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 24 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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