International community considers new options for crisis in Syria

International community considers new options for crisis in Syria

UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan reads a statement after his meeting with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on March 11, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

June 24, 2012, Sunday/ 13:05:00

The decision of the United Nations observers to suspend operations in Syria due to the escalating violence has led the international community to consider alternative steps, including the Yemeni model, to solve the Syrian crisis that began last March.

Chief monitor Gen. Robert Mood said last Saturday that the violence in Syria posed significant threats to the 300 unarmed members of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) who have been operating there since late April. The UN observers have been the only working part of UN envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan, which the international community sees as its one hope to stop the violence in Syria. The suspension decision of the UN observers was the strongest sign that the Annan peace plan was failing.

The Annan plan falied in spite of months of diplomatic efforts to prevent the country from plunging into civil war.

Middle East experts assessed the possible scenario for the Syrian crisis following the decision of the UN observers.

Ali Hussein Bakeer, an expert at the Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization (USAK), told Sunday’s Zaman that the only solution for Syria and the whole region was for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to relinquish power himself, which was unlikely to happen under such a brutal regime. “The Arab League and the international community have tried several initiatives to contain the situation and resolve it in a peaceful way. As expected, all the initiatives failed because they were not accompanied by coercive power to force Assad to stop the brutality of his regime against civilians,” said Bakeer, adding that Assad has used such initiatives to buy more time and to receive more logistical, political, economic and military support from his regional and international allies, Iran and Russia.

Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, Russia has used its UN Security Council veto and other tools to protect the Syrian regime, which is a close ally to Russia in the Middle East region. Early this month Russia stated that it would accept a Yemeni model for the transition of power in Syria if it were decided by the people.

Bakeer said that after UN envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan seemed to fail, the Yemeni model was kept on the table as an option to deal with the Syrian case. “Previously, the international community suggested the Yemeni model, which is a model that calls for Assad to transfer all his powers to Vice President Farooq Al-Shar’a in order to secure a peaceful and comprehensive transition of power,” said Bakeer.

Touching on the Yemeni model, Bakeer stated such an initiative was made to stop the violence of the brutal regime against his people as well as to preserve the former government institutions in Syria. “The problem of this initiative is that it needs the approval of the Syrian regime itself, which is unlikely to happen,” he said, adding that all indications showed that the balance of power was changing in favor of the Syrian opposition. “The revolution is spreading all over the country, including Aleppo and Damascus, and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is getting more organized and powerful day by day,” he said.

“Currently, there is arm wrestling between Assad and the opposition as well as between the countries that support Assad and the ones against him. It became clear that there will be no winner in this wrestling. The situation will force parties to find a middle ground, and this is most probably the Yemeni model,” Oytun Orhan, a Syria expert from the Ankara-based Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM), told Sunday’s Zaman, highlighting that the Syrian crisis had reached a point where the opposition realized they cannot topple Assad, while Assad realized he cannot suppress the opposition.

The Yemeni model came onto the agenda when former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled the poor Gulf nation for 33 years, was granted immunity from prosecution for the killing of protesters as part of a transfer of power deal that eased him out of office.

Orhan stated that at this moment a new plan for a period of transition could come on the agenda, adding that the important players such as Russia should compromise on the new plan. “The Yemeni model can be an option that the international community can compromise on,” he said.

“Unless a third actor is involved, the Syrian crisis will evolve into a complete deadlock. Everyone is aware that to get involved in the current situation in Syria poses risks,” said Orhan, adding that international intervention was not yet on the agenda.

The West has shown no intention of a Libya-style military intervention in Syria, despite their condemnation of Assad, while veto-wielding UN Security Council members Russia and China continue their support for the Assad regime.

“The Syrian crisis will either be solved by internal dynamics or by international intervention. International intervention seems unlikely at the moment; plus, there is also no unity among the internal dynamics. When the death toll increases, it will not matter who launches the intervention,” Tayyar Arı from Uludağ University told Sunday’s Zaman, adding that the Syrian crisis had started to remind him of the Bosnian crisis, where death tolls reached a point where international intervention was necessary.

The United Nations says since March of last year Syrian forces have killed 10,000 people in a crackdown on the protest against Assad’s rule that was inspired by uprisings across the Arab world which have toppled four autocratic leaders.

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