Syria's misery: The war continues with nation and world divided
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It is clear both from the international news and from the likely agenda of the United Nations General Assembly, opening in New York, that the miserable situation in Syria remains front and center in terms of attention, but so far absent a viable solution.
Estimates now run that some 30,000 people have died in Syria over the past 18 months, most of them civilians. When a figure like that is rounded off to the nearest 10,000 it means that nobody really knows how many, but that a lot of people have died, both from the fighting and from the concomitant disruption of social services that comes with such internal warfare.
In the meantime, it is clear that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad has no intention of stepping down. Part of the reason is that the fate of his Alawite Islamic sect is tied to his own remaining in power.
A second clear fact is that the Syrian opposition is not united -- it is, in fact, divided into at least four or five factions -- and thus does not present either a coherent bargaining partner if someone could cobble together serious intra-Syrian negotiations. Nor does the disunity of the Syrian opposition present any realistic hope that a successor regime to the al-Asad government, if one could be put together, would be able to provide responsible rule to Syria, a nation of 21 million.
A third critical fact is that the outside world, quite rightly, shows no disposition to intervene in Syria militarily to impose peace, negotiations, an agreement among the different factions, and sustainable long-term government there.
There are at least two reasons for this international reluctance to intervene. The first is the fundamental question, intervene on behalf of what? The chaotic Syrian opposition? The second is that foreign military intervention in Syria would be the equivalent of putting one's hand into a hornet's nest. A possible -- even likely -- outcome would be that Syrian unity of a sort would be achieved as the Syrians united to resist foreign intervention.
Effective international intervention on the diplomatic level remains difficult to achieve because of the differences of opinion that exist among the major diplomatic players. That split remains, roughly, the United States, the West, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey against China, Iran, Iraq and Russia, a formidable split in international terms.
One barrier to a unified international approach to the Syria problem remains U.S. opposition, prompted by Israel, of the inclusion of Iran, Syria's closest ally, in an international package approach to resolving the problem. That position is unlikely to change. For that and other reasons the bloody conflict in Syria is thus likely to continue.
First Published September 25, 2012 12:00 am