Monday, April 2, 2012

Syria: How Long Can Assad Last? What Are World Leaders Doing To End Killings?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

From Denny:  Will world leaders be successful in ending the carnage in Syria as the dictator continues to massacre his own people?  Will the Arab nations get serious and quit sitting on the sidelines, always expecting America to fix it with our blood and money?  How much patience do the American people have for yet another war in the Middle East?

International envoy and former United Nations chief, Kofi Annan, announced today that Assad has agreed to end hostilities by April 10th by pulling out troops and tanks from the big cities.  Of course, few in the international world believe Assad will live up to his agreement as he is known for breaking previous promises.  World leaders now believe that the Annan six-point peace plan has been violated and are working to develop additional plans to curb Assad beside diplomatic courses and economic sanctions.

Meanwhile, with this agreement in place, Assad sent in tanks and troops yesterday to kill rebels and torch their homes.  While one part of his government moves slowly to a peace accord, the other part continues hunting down the opposition across the country, killing all it can.  It is widely believed that Assad has no intention to quit the killings and is just using the diplomatic entreaties as an excuse to buy time while he brutally hunts down the opposition.

Another disturbing development is that human rights groups, as well as the opposition rebels, are reporting that for months now government forces have been abusing and torturing wounded activists being treated in the hospital.

In this Sunday, April 1, 2012 photo, Syrians chant slogans against President Bashar Assad upon the arrival of the Free Syrian Army in a neighborhood of Damascus, Syria. (AP Photo)

Remember, the international outrage started when it was reported - and confirmed - that the embattled cruel leader, Bashar al-Assad, was torturing and killing children.  He then denied the families the children's bodies for burial, adding more insult, festering bitterness and lingering resentment desirous for revenge.

What is the world community doing?  This weekend, by Sunday at a conference in Turkey, 70 partners agreed to pool their resources and monies to combat the massacre in Syria, using more than diplomatic measures.

While Saudi Arabia and other Arab states are proposing giving weapons to the rebels, the U.S. and other Western nations are not so quick to sign on to that idea.  It is feared it will create a full scale civil war.  I don't know what they would call this rebel opposition if not a full scale, unfairly balanced civil war.

From Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:  "A group of nations will be providing assistance for the fighters, and that is a decision that is being welcomed by the Syrian National Council."

Sec. Clinton went on to comment:  "There cannot be process for the sake of process. There has to be a timeline. If Assad continues as he has, to fail to end the violence, to institute a cease-fire, to withdraw his troops from the areas he has been battering ... then it's unlikely he is going to ever agree.  Because it is a clear signal that he wants to wait to see if he has totally suppressed the opposition. I think he would be mistaken to believe that. My reading is that the opposition is gaining in intensity, not losing."

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have pledged $100 million to pay rebel salaries.  They hope this will encourage more Syrian Army defections to cause a shift in the balance of power.  The fund could be used for weapons purchases and is a bone of contention among many of the partners.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks on April 1, 2012 during a conference in Istanbul. Erdogan said on April 1 Ankara would not back any plan that would help the regime in Damascus to stay in power. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

America has pledged $12 million in aid which also includes satellite communications equipment for the woefully over-matched rebels.  Sec. Clinton says that this equipment will help the anti-government activists better organize, keep contact with the outside world for status updates and evade Assad's forceful attacks.

Sec. Clinton says there is evidence the Assad regime is cracking:  "Well today we heard from a deputy Oil Minister who defected. We do see those kinds of cracks. We think the defections from the military are in the thousands."

Clinton continued, "When there were a couple of defections, the regime has cracked down and is basically holding families hostage. But that is an unsustainable system. You cannot turn the country into a giant prison. People are not going to put up with that. We think that there are cracks. I can't put a time frame on it but we think that that is beginning to happen." 

The Syrian uprising began in March 2011 with peaceful protests calling for political reform as part of the Arab Spring protests sweeping the Middle East.  Assad's response was heavy-handed, sending out tanks, snipers and roaming thugs to obliterate the revolt.  Most people took up arms just to defend themselves from attacking government troops.  At least 9,000 people are known to have been killed in the struggle. The toll is believed to be much higher but cannot be confirmed as Assad does not allow foreign media to report inside Syria.

Currently, Turkey is host to 20,000 Syrian refugees, highly motivated to bring an end to the killings.  Hundreds of refugees are Syrian Army defectors who collect food and supplies in Turkey near the Syrian border to help smuggle them to the rebels.

And where is Russia in this international drama?  Even Russia, who formerly supported the Assad regime, is growing impatient with him.  Russia has been selling weapons and planes to Syria for years.  Why kill the golden goose?

Even Russia, who twice vetoed the United Nations' sanctions but then signed on for the third vote, has now informed Syria to stand down and pull out of the cities.

Another reason for concern about arming the rebels is because of the amount of refugees, to the tune of tens of thousands, have fled to the closest countries of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.  Hundreds of thousands have been displaced from their homes inside Syria.

What various world leaders are concerned about is that with so many people involved in the conflict, and flung into so many different countries, the conflict could escalate tensions in the Middle East by dragging into the fight these refugee countries too.

Even if the goal is humanitarian aid for the cessation of the brutal violence in Syria, the civil war is already here.  Allowing Assad to crush the rebellion will only delay the inevitable.  The time to deal with the Assad regime is now.

While going into Syria with our American military is wildly unpopular among Americans weary of wars in the Middle East, according to recent polling, America and world leaders can continue various diplomatic and economic pressures upon Assad, while arming the rebels.  The key is to engage Russia further and get China on board.  Iran will stand alone, impotent to help Syria.

From Sec. of State Hillary Clinton:  "There is no more time, or excuses or delays. This is the moment of truth." 

Goodbye, Assad, it was nice not knowing you.

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