Syria smoulders as UN sits idle

Outrage over another blocked UN treaty on Syria.

The situation in Syria has now deteriorated to a point where now not even President Bashar al-Assad can deny that a popular uprising is taking place. The tide has turned from allegations that the Syrian military were attacking villages and journalists, to a wider and large-scale malcontent aimed towards the government. Several ministers, along with the national chief of security, have been killed by rebel groups, bringing the conflict up to an entirely new level. It is no longer simply a case of government suppressing demonstrators and isolated armed groups, but an escalating situation of conflict between a state and its people.

At first Assad appeared on international television, assuring the world that the violence was simply the work of isolated rebel groups, as well as foreign agents of chaos. His claims were backed up by the fact that foreign organisations such as Al Qaeda and Hezbollah had indeed opted to aid the rebels and Syrian people in their uprising. This development came only after several months of the bombardment of various populated areas, under the premise that cities such as Homs were full of criminals and terrorists. In a moment where the international political community stood silent, the condemned groups stood together in defence of each other. Slowly but surely, further international assistance came in the form of arms and intelligence from Turkish and American secret services. The attack by the Syrian army on a Turkish Jet in international airspace did not help their cause.

Now the rebels have begun to up the stakes and it appears that full scale civil-unrest is erupting in Syria. There are street battles in the capital, the border crossing to Iraq has been seized by rebel groups and Bashar al-Assad's location is unknown. A new chief of the armed forces was sworn in via a televised broadcast from an unknown location.

These developments prompted further discussion by the UN Security Council, where a western-backed resolution intends to install sanctions against the Syrian government under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter. This minimal action of imposed economic sanctions would have at least sent a message to the Syrian regime, that the international community is indeed watching.
The resolution was vetoed though, by permanent Security Council members Russia and China. Their objection was that interference with the sovereign affairs of a foreign nation was inexcusable. The two nations have a history of objection to any interference with other nation's affairs, likely linkable to their own human rights records, which can be viewed as less than ideal. This decision has resulted in yet another inaction by the United Nations (UN), whilst warfare is currently racking populated areas. The veto was described as inexcusable and indefensible by the UK foreign secretary and was condemned by the US, and France, who stated that the United Nations had failed the people of Syria.

Another interesting factor is that whilst Russia makes serious efforts to remain away from states' affairs, it is allegedly providing arms and support to the Syrian government. Among other things, it has shipped advanced defensive missile systems to Damascus, which would prevent foreign ships or planes from intervening in the conflict. Furthermore, Anatoly P. Isaykin, the general director of the company producing the weapons, stated that, "This is not a threat, but whoever is planning an attack should think about this."

This may be balanced by American efforts to support the rebel forces from across the border in Turkey, darkly echoing Cold War era conflicts. While the council remains inactive, efforts to influence the outcome of the conflict may already be too late. Recent developments may foretell of a bloody and decisive ending for the Assad regime.


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