2012 Commentary: No End in Sight to the Syrian Civil War

ABSTRACT: The civil war in Syria has been dragging on for over a year now. While Friday's massacre in Houla, Syria might prompt Bashar al-Assad's allies to put more pressure on him to sue for peace; it is unlikely to bring an immediate end to the conflict.

Map of Syria (1)
On Friday, armed gunmen massacred 108 people, many of them women and children, in the Syrian town of Houla. An Associated Press article puts the blame for these killings on troops loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Even some of Assad's allies, like Russia, have condemned the attack. Per the Los Angeles Times, U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan stated that "the crisis was 'at a tipping point.'" Annan might be correct; the Houla massacre might prod reluctant nations like Russia and China to join with the United States and others in putting pressure on Assad to enter into peace talks with the Syrian rebels. However, even if that is the case, the crisis will likely not be resolved anytime soon.

Per Albawaba, both the Chinese and Russians have condemned the Syrian massacre and have called on both sides in the struggle to adopt Annan's peace plan. According to CNN, the plan, which both Assad and the rebels have nominally accepted, calls for a "cease-fire by all combatants," "access for humanitarian groups," and a mediated political settlement. However, the Associated Press article notes that while Russia and China may put more political pressure on the Assad regime to accept a cease-fire (and perhaps to step down from power), the two countries, at least for now, are unlikely to condone the use of either economic sanctions or force to end the conflict.

Without the help of Russia and China, the current American and European backed economic sanctions against Syria might not be enough to convince Assad to negotiate with the rebels. As the Associated Press article notes, Russia and China will also block any attempts by the U.N. Security Council to use military force to remove Assad. The United States and other countries could decide to act on their own to end the fighting, as they did in Libya; however, that might be unlikely given that President Barack Obama is in a tough re-election fight and probably does not want to do anything to hurt his poll ratings.

Given these facts, the Syrian civil war might drag on for months or even longer. Bashar al-Assad still has enough backing from his allies to continue the conflict, and the Syrian rebels are unlikely to surrender.

1. Photographer/Owner: CIA
    March 27, 2005
    Title/Description: Map of Syria.
    Location/Permission: Wikimedia Commons - U.S. government document (click on the title/link
    (to see the map, credits, and permissions).

-- Anthony Hopper

#Assad #Syria #war #Sunni #Shia #opinion

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