What’s going on
in Syria is not a Western or Zionist conspiracy either, as some
liberals have persuaded themselves. Syria’s people are fighting
for liberation from long decades of tyranny and the world must
stand by them.
The longer the world dithers in dealing with Syria, the more
innocents it will be guilty of sending to their death
WHEN the history of these
interesting times is written, the people of Syria will perhaps
take their place right at the top. Of course, the courage and
leadership demonstrated by the people of Tunisia and Egypt in
challenging the old, ossified order will forever define the Arab
Spring. It was their resolve and courage under fire that turned
the region around, heralding a democratic dawn that has become a
metaphor for change around the world.
However, most inspiring as the epic sacrifices of the people of
Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen are, they seem to pale against the
price being paid right now by the Syrians. They were the late
bloomers of the Arab Spring, coming out on the streets
diffidently, almost apologetically, much after the tsunami of
change set off by Tunisia had turned the region upside down.
Those peaceful and polite Syrian protests acquired an infectious
momentum of their own in no time after they provoked the same
vicious and casually ruthless response from Bashar Assad that
seems to come naturally to all “socialist Arab republics.”
And look what the people of Syria have already been through. It’s
nearly a year since they took to the streets and they have offered
thousands of lives in their fight against the regime. It is a
totally one-sided war — peaceful and defenseless multitudes facing
the full power of a pitiless regime.
This lopsided fight looked doomed from the start — even before it
had begun. At least, that’s how it had appeared to the rest of the
world. However, the Syrians are hanging on in there, fearlessly
facing the cowards who call themselves their leaders. They remain
steadfast in the face of death and destruction, even as they go
about patiently burying their loved ones in scores and hundreds
across the country on a daily basis.
And the world watches, horrified — and utterly helpless. So much
for the international community and its fine institutions! Where’s
the civilized world when it’s needed most? What is the point of
institutions like the United Nations when they cannot stop the
endless, cold-blooded massacre of a helpless people at the hands
of its own rulers and army?
Much has been said about the Western double standards and
hypocrisy, including by yours truly. But what Russia and China
have just done to torpedo a UN resolution against the killers in
Damascus even as the world watches the carnage on television
screens is as shameful as what the US and its allies have
repeatedly done to protect Israel in the world body. The Russians
and Chinese have Syrian blood on their hands. They are guilty by
association, just as the West is.
God knows I am no fan of foreign interventions to put out domestic
fires, given the long history of Western adventures in the region
and around the world. However, when innocents, defenseless people
are getting killed in cold blood for demanding what’s their right,
the rest of the world cannot remain a mute spectator. It must act
and act fast. I am not suggesting another Western adventure a la
Iraq and Afghanistan. How about an international peacekeeping
force headed by the UN? After all, protecting peace is the world
Ideally, this should have been done by the Arab and Islamic world.
But there’s nothing ideal about the long divided Muslim world.
There should have been a regional or Arab-Muslim peace force,
along the lines of the NATO and African Union. But this is perhaps
asking too much of those who themselves are critically dependent
on others for their protection!
Nevertheless the Arab League, long reproached for its laidback
ways, has redeemed itself by reaching out to the besieged people
of Syria and repeatedly confronting the killer clique in Damascus
that has outdone itself and all such regimes in savagery and
brutality. Indeed, the League had abandoned its hallowed tradition
of studied indifference and “noninterference” in the affairs of
member states when Libya’s Qaddafi diverted all his manic energy
and firepower at his disposal to obliterate his people.
Which is what Assad is doing now, eyes wide shut to the fate that
befell Qaddafi and other fellow travelers before and after him.
The end of this evil regime is a foregone conclusion. But before
it crumbles under the weight of its own crimes, it could kill
thousands of more innocent and helpless people and totally raze
Syria. The scenes of women and children running for their lives —
captured in videos posted on YouTube and Aljazeera — as the tanks
pound homes in Homs and towns and cities all across the country
are heart rending. Are Moscow and Beijing watching?
Indeed, tanks were pounding Bab Amr and other neighborhoods in
Homs even as a poker-faced Assad was promising “dialogue” to
Russia’s Lavrov. The UN veto seems to have actually fueled the
regime’s thirst for Syrian blood, as UN rights chief Navi Pillay
Where do we go from here? There’s no help coming from the UN. The
world body is a pawn in the hands of world powers. It’s not just
Russia and China. Even the West doesn’t appear too keen to upset
Assad’s applecart for fear of the Islamists replacing the Bathist
regime. This will have to be sorted out by Syria’s Arab and Muslim
neighbors. The expulsion of Syrian envoys by the Gulf states
couldn’t have come sooner.
More effective steps are needed though to stop the carnage, as
suggested by Turkey which was the first to stand up to Damascus,
just as it had confronted Qaddafi and before him the Israelis.
Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, who has slammed Russia and China for
the UN veto, is pushing for the Arab and Muslim states to work
with the rest of the world to rein in the regime.
It’s time for Syria’s long time friend and ally Iran to get its
act together too. By choosing to look the other way even as Assad
decimates his people, Iran has let down all those who have stood
by it in the face of Western plots. This is not an issue to be
seen from a Sunni-Shiite prism.
Raining death and destruction on a powerless population, this
regime is as despicable and criminal, if not more, as Qaddafi’s
Libya was. There’s nothing Islamic or Shiite about it. What’s
going on in Syria is not a Western or Zionist conspiracy either,
as some liberals have persuaded themselves. Syria’s people are
fighting for liberation from long decades of tyranny and the world
must stand by them.
The longer the world community dithers in dealing with Damascus,
the more innocents it will be guilty of sending to their death.
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, as Edmund Burke
cautioned, is that good men do nothing.
Zaka Syed is a Gulf based commentator. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org