As the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Syria continues, Russia and China have vetoed an effort by Western nations in the Security Council to impose new sanctions against the regime of Syria President Bashar al-Assad.
Beginning in March, over 2,700 people have been killed by security forces in Syria. In early August, the Syrian president released a public decree promising a future that in the government, instituting multi-party elections. Since then, the crackdowns in Syria have only escalated with Iran, Russia and China still supporting the al-Assad regime with arms, which also prevents the international community from taking direct action against Syria through the UNSC. The division of the new community exhibited by the recent UN resolution that has been vetoed despite the support by Germany, France and Britain, who all supported the Security Council vote to impose “target measures” against the regime. Western governments have expressed with the UNSC over its failure to adopt any resolution on Syria since the spark of pro-democracy movements.
“This does not support a move toward democracy that we have seen in the Arab Spring.” Gerard Araud, French Ambassador
Nine nations, including the Untied States and its Western allies, voted for the measure. The resolution demanded the immediate end to all violence in Syria and accountability for those deemed responsible for it. Moreover, it also called for a new political process to be conducted in an environment free from such repressive military action and forceful intimidation. As states in past posts (Syria: UN Involvement Limited to Words) Russia has stood in the way of a communal agreement on a UNSC resolution. Along with China, Russia’s opposition lies rooted in the arms trade between the countries and Syria. The T-72 tanks supplied by Russia have been turned against the protesters on repeated occasions, resulting in cities being shelled to rubble. Because of the authority of both China and Russia in the Security Council, any direct actions of the international community are slim and may be limited to condemning rhetoric. The international community will not be able to make any communal commitment towards the actions of Syria, and the tone of the statement illustrates that the UN will only serve as a foreign mediator.
Nevertheless, individual countries have taken more direct actions towards the repression in Syria. Past Syrian allies, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, have both aligned themselves with Turkey on the off-chance that military conflict ensues. As the relations continue to deteriorate between Turkey and Syria, Turkish armed forces announced on Tuesday that it will conduct a week long series of military exercised in a province along the border of Syria. The objective of the Yildirim, or “lightening bolt”, exercise include establishing coordination between military and civilian institutions and the testing of mutual activities perform during mobilization and war times.
“Turkey is sending a signal to Syria. The irony is that it was only a few years ago as part of improved relations that Turkey and Syria started joint border maneuvers.” – Lale Kemal, defense expert and Ankara bureau chief with Turkish newspaper Taraf
More than 10,000 Syria refugees have fled across the border to camps in Turkey in recent months, while hundreds of Syria demonstrators suffering from gunshot wounds have been treated at Turkish hospitals. Furthermore, Turkey housed a group of opposition activists in Istanbul which resulted in the formal deceleration of the establishment of a new rebel council. The Syria National Council serves as a frame for the opposition and the peaceful revolution and represents the revolution inside and outside Syria. With 140 members from associations including the Muslim Brotherhood and Kurdish groups, the broad-based council is seen as a vitally important show of unity for the opposition.
In retrospect, the fight for Syria must be carried out by the Syrian National Council due to the cultural strains that any foreign involvement would escalate. Most notably is the division within Turkey that would erupt by any direct actions by Turkey against Syria, which is allied with Iran, which would guarantee Syrian Kurds being armed by Iranian Kurds, who could work with the notably anti-government Turkish Kurds; which could all exacerbate the Kurdish problem in the region. The powder keg of the Syria situation is put forth in the past blog: “Syria: The Powder Keg“.