With yet another United Nations Security Council resolution blocked by the greed of Russia and China, government forces in Syria have begun to shell the central Syrian city of Homs, killing at least 50 people on Monday morning.
The uprising began with mostly peaceful protests against President Assad, but government forces responded with a fierce crackdown. Now, army defectors and others are taking up arms to combat such tyranny, raising fears of civil war. With Russia and China on the receiving end of Assad’s blood money trade, fears have grown that with such international protection from the UN, Assad will be emboldened to intensify repressive actions. So saying, escalation in the battle has already been seen, as Assad has intensified shelling with a rate of one shell every two minutes. On Saturday, Syrian forces were reported to have killed up to 200 people in Homs, the highest death toll since the uprising began. The news of the perpetuating massacre comes after Syrians had observed for the first time in 30 years the anniversary of the massacre carried out in Hama in February 1982. It is still regarded as one of the most gruesome events in Syria’s modern history. Parallel to the current uprising, the 1982 massacre involved former President Hafiz al-Assad, who decimated most of the city of Hama with aerial bombings and tanks. About 30,000 inhabitants were killed and a similar number of people were detained, tortured and many disappeared in while in prison. Just like today’s Syria allies in the East, the 1982 event occurred under the cover of the Soviet Union.
“Clearly there is a tragedy in that country. Russia and China are protecting a regime that is killing thousands of people. We find their position both incomprehensible and inexcusable. By supporting that regime, they are strengthening it and allowing it to continue with that violence.” – David Cameron, British Prime Minister
As in the past, the tension and disparity between the West and East is evident in the widening gap of relations illustrated in the past UNSC resolution vote. The UN endorsed norm of ‘responsibility to protect’ mandates a collective response when states wage war on their own populations. With China and Russia wielding veto powers though, the intransigence of diplomacy in the face of humanitarian genocide is evident. Moreover, the Syrian regime seems to mock and taunt the UN’s notion of collective action with its brutal assault on the city of Homs just as the UN vote was taking place. Regional and international hesitancy in dealing with Syria has prolonged the violence, as well as allowing Assad to practice military force without restraint. In some perverse positive outlook though, the lack of international assistance has aided the Free Syrian Army in recruitment and its ascendancy is now a nearly foregone conclusion. Nevertheless, the threat of both sides turning to greater force has increased because of Russia and China’s determination to delay any and all international responses to the travesty in Syria.
“We will work to expose those who are still funding the regime and sending it weapons that are used against defenseless Syrians, including women and children. we will work with friends of a democratic Syria around the world to support the oppositions peaceful political plans for change.” – Hilary Clinton, US Secretary of State
China and Russia have drawn the wrath of the US, Europe and much of the Arab world for the weekend veto Protesters could be seen burning Russian and Chinese flags outside of the Russian embassy in Beirut, adding to the increasing numbers of voices demanding that they stop supporting the ongoing massacre. In an attempt to distill and reject such targeted demonstrations and criticisms, both Russia and China have tried to use ethical argument and moralistic diction to bolster their arguments behind vetoing the already watered-down UNSC resolution. In reality, Syria is Moscow’s only major ally in the Middle East, as well as being home to Russian naval base and client for its lucrative arm sales. China, on the other hand, has targeted western intervention in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq, suggesting that the violence still eminent in those territories is evidence enough of the error of forced regime change. China remains hiding behind its statement that it was not supporting one side and was taking a fair and neutral stance on the civil war in Syria; yet with a 2009 trade quota that was estimated at over $2 billion, the facade is incontestable.
“On the issue of Syria, China is not sheltering anyone nor do we intentionally oppose anyone. We uphold justice and take a responsible attitude.” – Liu Weimin, Chinese Foreign Ministry
Among those most vocal was Hilary Clinton, a staunch supporter for diplomatic means to end the violence in the tumult that has become Syria. With US sponsorship, supporters of a democratic Syria intent to create a formal group of like-minded countries to coordinate assistance for Syria’s opposition, similar to the Contact Group on Libya that oversaw international aid for opponents of Qaddafi. Though similar in that sense, the NATO military operations that were seen in Libya is something that is not envision in Syria. Sadly, with Western pursuits lying rooted in diplomacy and long-winded negotiations, a ragtag army of perhaps 10,000 Syrian rebels must combat and deter an army that while, far from invincible, enjoys an overwhelming advantage in numbers, equipment and firepower.