Ten months, 6,000 deaths, 15,000 wounded, 80,000 detained, and one dictator still in power.
These are the numbers, as of February 2012, that define the Arab Spring-inspired civilian uprising in Syria. In case watching or reading the news is not something you like doing, the Syrian government, led by the charismatic and bloodthirsty Bashar al-Assad, has spent the last 10 months brutally suppressing civilian demonstrations and revolutionary behavior by Syrians eagerly wishing to make the change in their own country as they have seen in Arab states throughout the Middle East. A valiant effort, to be sure, but the Syrian uprising has yet to bear fruit – not that the international community is offering much assistance.
The lack of international action in regards to Syria contrasts sharply with the action taken by NATO against the now-deposed Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya. While the international community took up arms in support of the Libyan rebel movement, action against Syria has been incredibly limited, regardless of the rhetoric heard by relevant powers in the region, including the United States and the Arab League. Those who have not been following the Syria situation might be asking why something has not been done about it and one can find the answer in Asia: Russia and China.
This past weekend, Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution, sponsored by Western powers and Arab nations, calling for al-Assad to step down and start the democratic transition of power in Syria. Russia, as Syria’s dominant advocate in the United Nations, has threatened the veto to keep the Security Council out of Syria’s domestic affairs, but it is clear that both Russia and China have more personal interests in Syria than just keeping the Security Council’s actions true to its written mandate.
Without approval by the Security Council, however, the international community cannot impose any action against the al-Assad regime without falling foul of the same institution that is unable to keep al-Assad in control. As the world twiddles its thumbs in the face of the Russian and Chinese firewall against international action, Syrian citizens perish by the hundreds under the guns and tanks of al-Assad’s impressive and efficient military machine, which clearly could not care less about the human rights violations they have made in the last 10 months. This is unacceptable.
Russia and China would be ashamed of themselves for allowing such rampant human rights violations to occur in Syria – that is if they themselves did not commit human rights violations against their own citizens from their cozy perches in Moscow and Beijing. Given the resistance offered by Russia and China, the West and the Arab nations must act smarter and push harder. Any resolution that comes before the Security Council regarding Syria from this point forth must be purposefully vague enough that its sponsors can say that the resolution does not mandate action while at the same time providing the argument for its supporters that it authorizes the use of force, as defined in Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.
The world has seen enough of al-Assad’s brutality and bloodlust. Given the fact it would be incredibly difficult to shame Moscow and Beijing into reversing their positions, the only viable option is to find a way to circumvent their opposition. The international community needs to ensure al-Assad falls out of his ivory tower and gives the power to the people. The Syrians are waiting. It is only right we give a helping hand.