A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In the Wake of Houla, What Next for Syria and the World?

The massacre at Houla last Friday has shocked the world; though the Syrian regime denies complicity, the deaths of at least 49 children, along with many more men and women, in the rebel town was clearly committed by some force opposed to the uprising, and the sheer, deliberate horror of it has horrified almost everyone. The world has responded with vigor and force.

No, just kidding. They sent Kofi Annan yet again.
Annan has said that Syria is at "a tipping point," and has come to the stunning conclusion that the UN peace plan isn't working. But we knew that already, apparently before he did.

The world fired the other barrel of its outrage today, kicking out senior diplomats from Syrian Embassies in Western capitals. (Kill children and we may have to declare your diplomats persona non grata. Not break relations, mind you, just PNG some diplomats.)

I have long been ambivalent about Western military intervention in Syria, as I noted most recently at some length here. I don't believe you undertake military action without a clear plan for achieving a defined objective. And I am not at all sure that outside intervention, even regional intervention (though the likelihood of the latter seems remote despite rhetoric). And I know that "we" — the US, the West, NATO, whoever — cannot realistically police the world, and some will say, why Syria and not Darfur, or northern Mali, or other places in need of order?

But Syria is a critically important country, a sort of keystone of the Levant; a prolonged sectarian conflict in Syria would not remain in Syria alone; lately the Syrian violence has already spread to Tripoli in Lebanon, and will spread further if it deepens. The troubles already preoccupy Iran and Hizbullah and could be drawn into the growing Iran-Israel tensions, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf states see Syria in sectarian terms and increasingly see themselves as defenders of the Sunni world.

I'm not sure what the world can or should do. But I'm increasingly sure the answer is not to keep sending Kofi Annan.

1 comment:

Jerusalem Center said...

Jacques Neriah, an Israeli intelligence official makes the following observation :

"The gradual transformation of the Syrian opposition into a movement led by extremist Muslims allied with al-Qaeda does not serve the opposition well. The majority of Syrians don't identify with those radicals. The more the opposition wears the mask of al-Qaeda, the more there is cohesion in the ranks around Assad."

see http://jcpa.org/article/alqaeda-jihadists-join-battle-syrian-regime/ for the full article.