It was reported today that over sixty people were killed yesterday in various villages around Syria. Homs was shelled as opposition forces attempted to rise up against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. While most of the fighting has been taking place in Homs and surrounding areas in the Idlib region, Damascus has came under fire as demonstrators took to the streets this week.
For nearly a year, opposition groups have stood defiant against Bashar Al-Assad’s regime, calling for him to step down. In the ensuing months, the regime and the Syrian military have taken a violent turn against opposition groups, killing people on a daily basis through heavy shelling and use of artillery against Syrian citizens.
The reason accurate number cannot be produced is because journalists have been barred from reporting about the incidents in Syria, and most foreign journalists have not been allowed in the country. However, the death of foreign journalists have plagued the international news in the last week. While NYT journalist Anthony Shadid died in Syria due to an asthma attack, Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed in Homs after heavy artillery hit a building in which they were staying. The building was more or less a safe haven for reporters in the Bab al-Amr area of Homs. Along with thousands of Syrian civilians, Syrian activists have also been targeted and have lost their lives after deadly attacks. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/22/ sunday-times-marie-colvin-killed-syria
Aid groups in Syria are working towards a ceasefire between opposition forces and the Syrian government so that those who are wounded or sick can be evacuated from the area.
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has called for a referendum on a new constitution on Sunday and elections in the following months. Assad, a little disconnected from the on ground reality, to say the least, says that this move should quell opposition forces and should be sufficient for those calling for a democratic Syria. Whether or not the elections will be transparent and free of rigging is not clear. President Assad also believes that the violence taking place in Syria is a counter attack to foreign-based terrorists who are running amok in his country.
The tone of Friday’s conference on Syria in Tunisia will more or less be same for each country, however, Lebanon has chosen not to attend and Russia is attending the conference to represent Syria, since no Syrian representative will be present. Although Russia vetoed an earlier resolution to Syria, and visited Syria after the fact, Russian leaders have called on a special UN humanitarian envoy to be sent to Syria.
According to Arab News sources, Moscow sold around $1 billion worth of arms to Damascus last year, and continues to do so.
And while arms dealing are soring high, basic necessities in cities like Homs and surrounding areas are running out. Medicine, water, and food has become a problem for people while government forces use heavy artillery daily in the region. People are trapped in their homes, too scared because they have nowhere to go and are under constant threat of being attacked. http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article578321.ece. http:// arabnews.com/middleeast/article578217.ece
On the other side of the world, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went abroad today to muster up some more support against Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s regime.
Clinton will start her visit in London and will join up to seventy invitees in Tunis, Tunisia by the end of the week for a key conference on the future of Syria. One of the major points of discussion during the “Friends of Syria” conference will be whether military assistance should be given to opposition groups in Syria.
Clinton has been vocal about isolating the Syria government and has spoken at various political gatherings to act against the Assad regime, citing that the death of Syrian civilians is not a matter the international community or the US was willing to stand by and watch.
The conference comes after a UN resolution on Syria was vetoed by China and Russia earlier this month, and after the Arab League failed to agree on a viable solution to Syria. However, the United Nations is looking to the Arab League to lead discussions with the Syria regime.
Other countries are contemplating with the idea of arming Syrian opposition forces against the Syrian army and regime if diplomatic means to stop the Assad regime are not agreed upon.
It is thought that the Obama administration may look to assisting the international community with military aide for Assad’s opposition forces, but military action is the last resort, as they still believe that a diplomatic solution to Syria is still foreseeable. With repeated offenses against Syrian civilians White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the United States was prepared to make sure that the international community did not wait too long to take action. Earlier on the White House had taken a stance against arming rebels, as further militarization of Syria was not the answer, according to the US.
Countries such as Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, etc have hinted at military assistance to Syria in an effort to avoid civil war and to stop the regime from killing anymore civilians. http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article578584.ece
ARMING REBELS IN THE RECENT PAST: LIBYA
While the situation in Syria is unfortunately bleak, a question arises, is arming the rebels in Syria going to have the effect it should? The most recent country that was assisted militarily by the international community was Libya. Let’s check out how successful the arming of opposition forces in Libya was.
When the uprising started in Libya this month last year, opposition groups in Benghazi and other major cities of Libya were not going down without a fight. A resolution to freeze Qaddafi’s assets was passed ten days after the uprising began in Libya. As violence continued and Qaddafi’s army started to increase their use of artillery fire on civilians, the situation grew worse.
By March, international armies and armed units had started to reach Libya, such as the Royal Canadian Navy in March and a few weeks later the international community and NATO had decided on military intervention in the country. American, British, and French air forces were put into action. A coalition of international forces, including European and Arab countries upheld the no-fly zone in the country and strategic assistance to opposition groups. Operation Unified Protector was underway and while there was heightened violence and many innocent deaths, the Libyans were able to win their country back in October, after Muammar Qaddafi was found dead.
Before Qaddafi’s death, the National Transitional Council (NTC) was recognized by the UN as a representative of Libya and they officially declared the liberation of the country by the end of October 2011.
So since then, there have been multiple reports about the concern the international community has with Libyan militias, their lack of disarmament, and continued torture of pro-Qaddafi individuals.
At the beginning of this year, the BBC reported that there were thousands of individuals being held at secret detention chambers in Libya. The interim government had not settled and was unable to disarm rebel groups so that a new government could be voted in. Fatal clashes between opposition forces have increased security concerns in the region.
So I guess the question is, can you blame them? For over forty years, with no constitution, the death of Qaddafi created a vacuum to say the least. The fact that many individuals in Libya today were born under Qaddafi’s rule shows that the sense of mistrust and unreliability is still prevalent in the country. With no transitional organization, people will be uneasy with the transition of power.
The interim government obviously lacks the power and the resources to help disarm and stabilize the country, as on some occasions, the majority of a town is under the control of armed militia. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-16735217
Just last week Amnesty International reported that militias may have more power than the NTC government. Although certain militias are on the same page as the NTC, they may be using their power as leverage for when the next government is elected. One option the NTC has looked at is to integrate militias into national security forces. http://arabnews.com/middleeast/ article576662.ece
THE ROAD NOT TAKEN
In a brilliant article by Sarmila Bose, senior journalist and Senior Research Associate at the Centre for International Studies at the University of Oxford, she points out that Libyans may not necessarily want a democratic system after the fall of Qaddafi. Through a survey done in Libya, only 15% of Libyans wanted a democracy while 40% were more interested in a “strong leader” to rule the country.
Bose points out in her article that although the majority of Libyans clearly indicated the need for a strong leader, BBC analysts saw the results as a lack of knowledge on behalf of the Libyans as not wanting a democracy. Naturally, they don’t know what they are talking about, right?
Bose goes on to say that democracy may not be the shining go-to political system the West may want it to be. She points out that those who may fall victims to harsh dictatorships and “bad” leaders may just want good governance, whatever way, shape, or form it may come in. This could be the true to Syria, although, no survey of this kind has been done.
Bose goes on to describe democracy as it was seen five years ago in South Asia, and reports some extremely interesting results. To get Bose’s brilliant analysis, here is the link. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/02/ 201222086791170.html