Mohsin Zeb discusses the importance of taking real action in Syria
By any measure, the failure to stop genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia in the recent past stand out as damning stains on our collective conscience as a species. To sit and do nothing, for all intents and purposes, twiddling the thumbs whilst other human beings are shot, burnt or hacked to death, remains shameful to all of us. For the political classes in countries with the means to intervene in such situations, inaction is testimony to the fact that at times, far too often for any moral being, vested interests trump the standing of human dignity in policy circles. Yes, ultimately, in Bosnia NATO undertook action to bring an end to crimes unseen in Europe since the horrors of the Second World War, but the agonizing time on the sidelines condemned thousands to early graves at the hands of a disgusting, genocidal Serbian regime which to this day has not been fully brought to book.
Unfortunately, it looks as if we are doomed to see a repeat of such inaction in Syria, where the brutal, sectarian regime of Bashir Al Assad is perpetuating unspeakable crimes upon the Syrian people. Days ago, we were all shocked by the massacre of innocents in Houla; many of the victims being children aged under 10. Sources suggest some 108 people died, with over 300 injured and countless more traumatized. These victims of state murder as perpetuated by Assad and his illegitimate regime who lack any form of governmental legitimacy – be that consent from the people via elections or indeed performance legitimacy – push the total death count since the beginning of this uprising to over 14,000. 14,000 people robbed of life, a quarter million displaced and many more stripped of their human dignity. Yet, the world sits back and talks, and then talks some more.
Why inaction persists here is complex, partially a product of Russian opposition and protection of a regime about as bothered by freedoms as its own in Moscow. In part, the world fears the impact and spill over effects of intervention in a region which is already wracked by sectarian tensions. Perhaps also the lack of any natural resources bonanzas in Syria temper the moral indignation some in the West simply couldn’t ignore in oil rich Libya. However, it is not the sole obligation of the western states to act here. Regional actors, some jealously protective of their own sovereignty, could act independently of the Western powers to show that the region can both settle its own affairs and that basic human rights are a concept supported in these societies.
If regional actors such as Turkey or Saudi Arabia wish to resist the encroachment of Iranian influence in the region, they are best served by acting to bring down Assad. Ankara could, and indeed perhaps is morally obligated to, swiftly crush Assad’s forces and relieve the masses from this brutal dictator. Arming the freedom movement – which has a degree of democratic legitimacy by encompassing the will of the majority Sunni populace which comprises about eighty percent of Syrians – is not enough. No, light arms make too small an impact to tip the balance.
Indeed, the regional dynamic is not separable from the violence in Syria, with Iran particularly responsible for arming and backing Assad in a show of sectarian loyalty that guides its myopic policy makers. Quite frankly, Iran’s tendency to push the boundaries with the international community as relates to its nuclear program, its belligerence against the tiny UAE where it wishes to usurp Emirati land, and its actions as relates to Syria leave it as the main obstacle to peace in the region. It is impossible to sort the mess in Syria without dealing with Tehran.
I have on many occasions argued for a peaceful settlement of the Iran crisis, but Iran appears determined to ignore the global calls for its cooperation as relates to nuclear arms development – which is the undoubted end goal of its nuclear program. Therefore, in the interest of global security – stability in the region, sustained progress on nuclear proliferation issues and the protection of human dignity in Syria – Iran must know that force remains a legitimate option against it.
Should Tehran persist in its ambition of dominate its region, it its ambition of creating a nuclear option that would forever alter the balance of power in the region and jump start an arms race, or in backing a maniac in Damascus, it should suffer the consequences. IMF data suggests Iran’s economy is starting to feel the pinch of Washington’s economic pressure, but time is of the essence here. For the sake of the Syrian people, and for regional peace, this dark nexus between Tehran and Damascus must be brought down. Removing Assad would solve half the problem; the cancer will only be removed when the regime in Tehran is stopped from playing its dangerous games, using its proxies.
We must say never again to genocide. This means removing Assad and taming the Frankenstein regime that sustains him from afar.