Over the last 14 months in Syria, many gruesome and violent events have taken place. Heavy shelling reduced towns to rubble, thousands of people have died and tens of thousands of detainees have suffered from cruelty and torture.
But nothing was as horrific as what happened in Houla. This town, which was once taken over by opposition fighters, became a target of the Syrian army’s artillery and tanks. The shelling was followed by a widespread cleansing operation, reportedly by pro-government Syrian militiamen. This was when the atrocities were committed. According to UN observers who investigated the area, 108 people, including 34 women and 49 children, were massacred.
Nevertheless the Assad regime, as usual, attributes this savagery to “terrorists” and calls the accusations against his government a “tsunami of lies.”
Judging by the UN Security Council statement issued in an emergency session, many do not find the response from Damascus convincing. This statement, that also bears the signatures of China and Russia, denounces the latest violence, condemns the oppression against the Syrian people, asks for the withdrawal of the Syrian army from towns and declares that the means used by Assad [to crush the opposition] are against international law.
What will this reaction from the world organization change? Will it persuade Assad to stop incessant barbarity against his people? We don’t think so. The Security Council statement is simply a declaration, not a binding decision.
Then who is going to call for an end to this crisis after the Houla atrocity? Just for a moment, let’s assume that the actions of resistance groups provoked shelling from the Syrian army. Even then, the army was shelling towns where there was no armed resistance. Assad’s commanders have clearly adopted the use of disproportionate force as a strategy.
What happened in Syria is not “a tsunami of lies” but rather a “tsunami of savagery,” arising from the regime’s persistently ruthless policies. Assad uncompromisingly continues with his ways, relying internally on his army, the state mechanism under his control and the supporters around him. Externally, he leans on Russia and Iran. As long as he has this kind of support, there is no probability that the Tyrant of Damascus will relent.
Internally, the only meaningful change could be the strengthening and expansion of the opposition and resistance front. However, opposition groups that comprise the opposition’s Syrian National Council aren’t truly united. Resistance fighters don’t have the weapons to challenge the army, although they are exerting great efforts to escalate the situation.
As for external elements, there is no likelihood of a Libyan model military intervention against Syria. Western countries have no such intentions, as the US is busy with elections and Europeans are dealing with their troubled economy.
That leaves diplomacy as the only course of action. Kofi Annan’s mission is clearly a disaster. Until now, the Annan Plan was considered as the only way out. Now other paths are being discussed, such as the US-backed “Yemen model” that stipulates the departure of Assad, setting up a transitional administration and holding elections.
Fine, but for this model to be viable both Russia and the opposition have to say yes. This is the current direction of diplomatic efforts as the US tries to convince the Russians and Turkey to work on persuading the opposition.
Perhaps a resolution could be found if the situation calms down, but as long as the violence and barbarity continue, the tsunami will not end.