The Cold War is Heating up over Syria
Tickle the ivories for a classical Arab concerto…
- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is fighting the opposition’s armed rebels that include the Sunnis and even some members of Assad’s own Alawite sect. The conflict, which began as a peaceful uprising inspired by the Arab Spring has, according to the United Nations, killed nearly 80,000 people.
- President Assad’s government has consolidated its hold on the capital of Damascus while fears are growing that the al-Qaida-motivated al-Nusra Front is gaining momentum.
- Brutality and exhibitionism are on full display in Syria as videos emerge of government soldiers torturing pro-democracy protesters. In response, the opposition took up arms and fighters from both sides look like Martin Scorsese directing murder sequences. Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights describes, “They cut out hearts and livers, ears and tongues.”
- There is enough evidence of extrajudicial killings and torture on the part of the Syrian government and the rebels that it would be near impossible to know who are the “good” guys, says Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch’s emergencies director.
- The U.S. is not interested in ordering its troops into Syria but it has provided medical kits and food rations to the Syrian opposition led by Gen. Salim Idriss.
- America’s reluctance to jump head first into the battle has prompted Israel to fill the power gap. Israeli officials have asked Russia to stop what they say is an imminent delivery to Syria of S-300, a series of Russian long range surface-to-air missile systems.
- Russia weasels its way into a fight (Cyprus, Chechnya) and then makes the situation worse. For example, Russia has stated that it is opposed to the latest resolution designed to end the conflict. Note to Russia: Try being part of the solution rather than being part of the problem.
- The U.N. General Assembly is expected to adopt a resolution condemning the violence and demand that Syria give a U.N. team free access to investigate alleged uses of chemical weapons. I have no doubt Syria will contentedly provide the U.N. entrée to its arsenal of biochemical weapons (note sarcasm).
- Syria is on the precipice of having to pick between the lesser of two evils, according to President Bashar al-Assad. He says his country faces a choice between submitting to “a new colonization” by the West or to the “dark” forces of extremist Islamism.
And The #1 Thing You Should Know About Syria Is…
- The end of the ghoulish saga could be near. An international conference set for June may persuade the Syrian government and opposition to accept a deal that includes an immediate cessation of violence and the establishment of a transitional government with officials serving under President Assad and members of the opposition. If cooler heads can persuade Syrians to communicate, stability could be a stone’s throw away (we hope).