I have been closely observing the situation in Syria for about a year now. Since the Arab Spring in 2011 that changed the course of history for the countries in North Africa and for Yemen in the Middle East, it seemed that Syria was going to be next. Most people didn’t expect the revolution to be dragged for so long and didn’t foresee the huge loss of lives it was going to cause. They believed that Mr. Bashar Al-Assad who took power after his father’s death in 2000 was going to surrender to his peoples wishes in months if not in weeks, but sadly the long awaited downfall of Mr. Al-Assad has yet to be realized.
The reason behind his stay in power for so long, since the revolution started isn’t because the people of Syria have not been doing what they are supposed to do to achieve the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in their country. It is rather the international community, specially the governments of both China and Russia that seem to be letting him survive so long. These two countries, using their permanent seat in the security council of the UN, have vetoed to block any action from being taken toward ending this period of political unrest. Now for most of us this is hard to understand, since we have seen the fate of totalitarians both in Egypt and Libya and feel that Mr. Assad future won’t be different from theirs after his repeated refusal of stepping down.
The question here, which I feel is on everybody’s mind is what these two countries get out of the resisting from actions being taken in the country in support of its citizens. What do they get out of blocking every decision that the UN Security Council makes? How come they weren’t that vocal and that involved in the case of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen? Has special interest made them blind and unwilling to the crisis that is going on in Syria? Why aren’t the other members of the permanent Security Council trying to use their influence to push for some actions? I believe the gridlock the Security Council is facing has much more to do with the special interest of China and Russia than a genuine concern that an uncalled involvement of the international community and the unbalanced information about the internal conflict might lead to further fuel the chaos in the country.
Russia has had a long relationship with Syria, which goes back to the days of when Russia was part on the now defunct USSR. The Russians played a critical part in the economical development of Syria. They assisted in building several oil refineries and also helped to expand the land under irrigation in cooperation with the government of Syria. They also encouraged free trade between these two countries and opened the door for Russian investors. On the other hand, Russia has been the main arms provider of Syria behind the back of NATO. The intention of providing the dictator Mr. Al-Assad with weapons isn’t out of mere arms dealing, but out of strategic interest to use the ports in Syria as a doorway to the Mediterranean Sea. It had been over 15 years since Russia had toned down their presence in the Mediterranean region, but since 2007, they have increased their presence significantly by deploying their navy to the region. This rather new move is not for the sake of “showing off” but it is instead to secure their interest in the Middle East.
Though the cold war ended in 199o, the same people are leading Russia with just different outfit and the presence of US army in Afghanistan, Iraq(though they recently left), and US naval base in Saudi Arabia doesn’t rest well with the Russian Government. In s sentences that looks like the one from Sarah Palin, access to Syria would be giving the opportunity for “Americans to see Russia from yet another guesthouses they will set up in the Middle East”. So giving another guesthouse in the form of Syria to USA is something they likely do not want to do. The cold war may long be over, but the tension is still lingering and influencing the decisions made by the Kremlin. The same rings true for China in terms of Geography, as they just plainly don’t want to see USA closer than necessary. For them where USA is located on the map today is more than close enough, and if Physics and all other fields of Science would allow, they would even push that country far today, father tomorrow and farthest away by next year from themselves and someday even to another planet if that was possible.
The issues of refugees has also overwhelmed, specially two neighboring countries Turkey and Jordan. As of the past week the number of Syrian refugees in Jordan has increased to 80 000 and the country is already saying they can hardly cope with the number of refugees they already have let in. The same goes for Turkey and as of the last few weeks, they have been asking for the creation of a buffer zone within Syria, that can be provided by their own military, where refugees fleeing violence can come to. But this approach to the issue of refugees has not received any international consensus, since it would be seen as undermining the sovereignty of Syria, and possibly lead to another failed result of diplomacy.
The former General Secretary of the UN, Kofi Annan, who is the peace envoy appointed by the UN and the Arab League, was recently in Syria trying to negotiate with Mr. Al-Assad about what the country can do the end this political unrest and stop the ongoing bloodshed. Mr. Annan suggested a two-hour of halting the fight everyday so that civilians could get access to medical help and also to get assistance for any other issues based on humanitarian grounds. This plan will also work towards cease-fire and the government must take troops out of the towns. On the other hand the rebels must also stop fighting the government troops. The peace plan has faced a lot of skepticism, because of the deep mistrust the international community has towards Mr. Al-Assad’s Regime. But it seems to be the only way (at least for now) that the country can be put on track towards achieving peace and democracy. How the peace plan is going to change the course of the situation remains to be seen, but hopefully for the sake of Syrians both living as refugees in neighboring countries and those trapped in the country in the internal conflict, the journey to peace won’t be long and the madness this war has brought will end sooner than later.