Is there any country than can remain indifferent to the massacre in Houla, in which more than 100 civilians were killed? This time, no party has remained indifferent to the grief of the victims, including Russia, Iran and China, the allies of the Damascus regime. However supporters of [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad continue to deny the facts, doing their best to exonerate the regime of any of its crimes.
It all boils down to whether the international community has the will and the ability to put an end to this bloodshed.
Unfortunately, even after the Houla massacre, there is not much hope in this respect. The search for a way out continues, but most options exist only in words, with only a weak probability of implementation.
The five most commonly mentioned ways forward for the Syrian crisis are as follows:
This option has been tried for months. Turkish officials, in particular, did their best to settle the issue through diplomacy. However, now, most countries have given up on this option, which explains why, after Houla, many countries including Turkey, the US, Bulgaria, Canada, and Switzerland expelled Syrian diplomats from their countries.
Russia has stated that [expelling diplomats] blocks channels for diplomatic dialog with Damascus. While this may be true, these channels have already proven to be ineffective. If diplomacy had worked, the Annan plan would have been implemented. And Kofi Annan has not given up on his mission. Nevertheless, doesn’t the continued violence and bloodshed negate any potential diplomatic solution?
Rumors are circulating that sanctions against the regime are to be intensified in the wake of the Houla massacre. However there are not many examples of taming dictators with sanctions, and it is not likely that this will lead to the toppling of the regime.
The utterance of this scenario immediately reminds us of the Libyan case. However, the conditions of Libya do not apply to Syria. First of all, a Security Council decision is necessary for a military intervention and Russia and China would veto such a decision. A NATO intervention is also unlikely. The West has been worn out by Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Libyan intervention. The US is busy with the elections and the Europeans are worried about their economy. Lastly, the Syrian army is not comparable to the Libyan one — its strength should not be underestimated.
The option to establish a buffer zone through a limited military intervention is still on the table. However, there is a risk that any intervention force would clash with the Syrian army and Air Force. Moreover, this will escalate the tension with those countries who support the regime in Damascus.
Supporting the Resistance
The Syrian opposition, especially the Free Syrian Army, faces difficulties in procuring weapons. While there are some in the West who think that arming the opposition will be the best option to topple Assad, there is no consensus on these options. Moreover, even if the Syrian opposition is given weapons, it will remain difficult for them to stand up to the heavy weaponry of the Syrian army.
All options have their risks. That opens up another option: doing nothing, as is taking place now. However, it is clear that this will not provide a solution either.