Saturday, 11 February 2012, 08:43 GMT
What is the endgame for Syria?

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

The Kurdish Globe
By Salah Bayaziddi

Thirteen members of the UN Security Council, including the US, the UK, and France, voted in favor of the resolution,

Last week, the international community was close to a breakthrough to stop almost 11 months of bloody conflict in Syria. But that chance slipped away because the post-war system still exists and the super powers of the "big five" remind us of the horrible period of proxy wars, authoritarian systems, military juntas and one party's dominance in Eastern Europe.

Thirteen members of the UN Security Council, including the US, the UK, and France, voted in favor of the resolution, which backed an Arab peace plan aimed at stopping the violence in Syria. Russia and China did not pay any attention to the ongoing bloody repression of Syrian President's Bashar al-Assad's regime and blocked the resolution because of what they perceived as a potential violation of Syria's sovereignty, which could allow for military intervention or regime change. The US immediately accused Russia and China of siding with " the Syrian regime and its brutal suppression of the Syrian people in support of their own national interests. Their approach lets the Syrian people down, and will only encourage President Assad's brutal regime to increase the killing, as it has done in Homs over the past 24 hours."

Indeed, Syria has been a key Russian ally since the Soviet times and Moscow has opposed any UN demands that could be interpreted as advocating military intervention or regime change. At this point, there is no viable diplomatic initiative under way and with the veto power of both Russia and China, efforts by the international community will not succeed and therefore it is not an exaggeration to say a bleak and bloody future awaits the Syrian people.

In the wake of the vetoed Security Council resolution calling for the Syrian president to step down, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov asked what the endgame was. The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton replied: "The endgame in the absence of us acting together as the international community, I fear, is civil war." Therefore, it is logical to ask what the next step will be, and how both the Arab League and the international community will respond to a major human rights abuse and a possible widespread crackdown by the army in Syria. But while we are analyzing the firm stance of the Arab League, and especially the Persian Gulf states, toward Assad's regime, it seems there is also a conflict of interest between those states and pro-democracy demands of ordinary Syrian citizens. In line with this argument, Gal Luft, Executive Director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security in Washington, D.C., has argued, "Some Gulf states may cringe at China's callousness on Syria, but at the same time those regimes are relieved by China's adherence to its non-interventionist approach. After all, they're hardly paragons of democracy." Moreover, Saudi Arabia, China's largest oil supplier, last year sent troops in to crush a revolt in neighboring Bahrain. China imported 4.75 million metric tons of crude from Saudi Arabia in December 2011, or 22% of its total imports that month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Qatar, which armed Libyan rebels against former Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, signed an agreement with China in January to build a refinery for the world's top oil consumer.

Now, with the strong opposition of both Russia and China to further pressure the Syrian regime, and at the same time weak stances from Persian Gulf states about bold or radical efforts to end bloodshed in Syria, Turkey's recent diplomatic maneuvers as a self-declared regional power are becoming more vital since the rise of massive political upheaval in the Arab world and the fall of dictatorial regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. As a bold policy initiative, Turkish officials have previously said Ankara could consider enforcing a buffer zone or no-fly zone in Syria, if there were a huge influx of refugees that threatened to destabilize the neighbor's long border and put Turkey's own security at risk, or if Assad's forces carried out massacres in cities. At the same time, there is a powerful tendency to give more space and political maneuvering room to the AKP government in Turkey regarding the Syrian conflict. In recent days, Turkish officials repeatedly argued that if the Security Council failed to protect civilians, then like-minded countries should find ways to end the killing and deliver aid to civilians trapped by military assault, especially those in Homs.

Still, there should be more convincing and trustworthy activities to give Turkey a like-minded position. Until then, the Syrian regime is continuing its crackdown campaigns and killing civilians throughout the country. At the same time, even though Turkey has organized some meetings for Syrian opposition groups in the past and is seemingly closer than other countries to what is going on in that country, a cautious and non-intervention policy may be the best approach at the present time. Just a few days ago, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu ruled out military intervention in Syria and said there is still time for diplomatic efforts and that Turkey is using all diplomatic means to end the 11 months of violence in its southern neighbor. Therefore, it is now a logical question to ask that how Turkey, NATO's most important Muslim member, which is believed to have power to exert its growing influence in a crisis-ridden region, can be more useful in finding a solution to the Syrian conflict.

At such a sensitive and crucial time, there are few options in the wake of the vetoed Security Council resolution. While we have analyzed the parties involved, we should also pay attention to the forces that are resisting efforts for regime change in Syria. Therefore, the logical question to ask is what force is defending the Syrian regime and how the international community will be able to defuse that. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to identify this "mysterious" power that seems to be ready to defend Assad's regime to its last drop of blood. As everyone is fully aware, Iran is the main political force that will do whatever it can to keep the Syrian regime in power. A recent visit by the commander of Iran's elite Quds Force to Damascus is the strongest sign yet that Iran is supplying weapons to aid Assad's crackdown, a senior Obama administration official said on Feb. 7. While the US has long believed Iran is helping drive the deadly crackdown on dissent in Syria, the official says the visit by the Quds Force Commander Ghassem Suleiman provides a concrete example of direct high-level cooperation between Iran and Syria.

As a final word, we come to the conclusion that there are more obstacles in the way to finding a speedy solution to the conflict of Syria. To understand the gravity of changing regimes in the Arab world, and how it has affected Russia's and China's interests in the huge mess, it is crucial once more to review the process of the Arab uprising since the first spark in Tunisia. At this point, it seems there is no viable diplomatic initiative in play and with the veto power of both Russia and China; any effort by the international community will not succeed, leaving a bleak future for the people of Syria.