UK foreign secretary William Hague has described Syria president Bashar Al-Assad as the head of a “doomed regime as well as a murdering regime” and I have to say, I agree with him. The city of Homs alone, the epicentre of anti-regime protests has seen an increasing death toll and without drastic intervention this will not cease. Assad’s regime is tyrannical and despotic, echoing the footsteps of Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein in using any means to obliterate his opponents, and in this sense, would make intervention by the United Nations welcomed. Thus, I was outraged after hearing that Russia and China vetoed a United Nations resolution condemning government repression. Indeed, the Syrian opposition say this vetoing will encourage the Syrian government to act without restraint.
This consequently begs the question; why in the light of escalating violence that shows no sign of ending in the near future would China and Russia wish to prevent a United Nations resolution that would ultimately result in external military involvement in Syria?
Chinese newspapers state that western pressure for regime change in Syria could be erroneous and has a high degree of being unsuccessful, citing examples of western involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq as examples of this. The possibility of cementing mutual relationships as to ensure continual trade between China and Syria, particularly oil, would be the obvious ulterior motive, but what is Russia’s excuse? Behind Russia’s resolute stance of vetoing military intervention in Syria by the United Nations is a long term relationship with Assad and his family, who have run Syria for four decades as well as a web of business and security interests consequently leading to deep discomfort in Moscow with regards to the prospect of a foreign-mandated change in leadership. Russian diplomats say they were deceived last year when a U.N. resolution designed to protect Libyan civilians morphed into a Western-led bombing campaign that doomed the long-ruling government of Muammar Gaddafi. Furthermore, Russia opposing the resolution for U.N. military intervention in Syria will not cause significant damage to its relations with the west and the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf. Russian analysts also assert that Moscow particularly is concerned with remonstration against Assad’s rule in Syria as well as previous ‘Arab springs’ that have led to the overthrowing of long established leaders as can be seen in the deposing of President Mubarak in Egypt and the eventual killing of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, believing that such protest is rooted in a western conspiracy to dominate the Middle East.
The United Nations have reported more than 5,000 deaths since protests against Assad’s rule broke out in March. Kidnapping has also emerged as a regular feature of this conflict showing a further deterioration of law and order and an escalation of Human Rights violations in the country. In such cases abductees are usually used as bargaining chips to gain the release of kidnap victims held by the other side or information is extorted from them. It is clear to me that the boundaries to which a veto being imposed is only logical have been crossed; hence it is problematic to me when I see continual bloodshed in Syria. A lack of international involvement in the Rwandan civil war culminated in the Rwandan genocide of 1994 where up to one million Tutsis were exterminated by Hutu forces and up to one hundred thousand Muslims were slaughtered in the Bosnian war due to a lack of NATO forces. Indeed, Kofi Annan, the previous Secretary General of the United Nations said of the former that “the international community failed Rwanda and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret”. Thus, I believe that U.N. military intervention in Syria is the only option. It has been argued that such a presence will only lead to an escalation of violence within the country. However, for me it is the most logical option. Without military intervention, what will be seen is the systematic elimination of not only anti-Assad mobs publicly protesting but the mass killing of people in anti-Assad ‘areas’ over a sustained period of time, yielding a probable likelihood that the rate at which protestors are being killed will increase over time. However, with U.N. military intervention, although a proliferation in violence is still probable, this will only be short term before order is restored and Assad is politically overpowered. In this sense, U.N. military intervention in Syria could be deemed to be a lesser of two evils. Furthermore, this time not only the U.N. but more specifically western involvement, is from my perspective, justified. I cannot say the same for western involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as in the former Hussein’s leadership had been dishevelled and the likelihood of their being weapons of mass destruction was minimal upon the arrival of western forces. Alongside this, involvement in Afghanistan continued subsequent to bilateral negations by the Taliban to ‘hand over’ Bin Laden to a third party country, a proposition rejected by President Bush. However, this time the west has a chance to redeem itself by participating in a military campaign to restore order to a violent and despotic regime; I hope this happens.
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