BESIDES watching the Syrian drama from the sidelines, the international community has done nothing practical to stop a slaughter that, says the UN, has left 60,000 dead in less than two years. Add to it the number of the injured and displaced, besides public and private buildings being blown to bits, and we get a fuller picture of the human dimensions of the Syrian trauma. The Security Council couldn’t pass a single resolution for peace — thanks to Russian and Chinese vetoes — while the Organisation of the Islamic Conference remained in its traditional state of torpor. The Arab League at least tried to contain the conflagration in the heart of the Arab world but failed, while the two sides fought ferociously, committing horrible human rights violations. If at all foreign parties got involved in the Syrian conflict, it was for the wrong reasons. Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia — backed by Nato powers — and Iran made no secret of their sympathies. The result is that the aims behind the Arab Spring have given way to sectarian considerations, with the crisis spilling over to Lebanon.
The dissidents have now within their ranks forces that seem motivated less by democratic ideals and more by extremist philosophies that could create regional problems if President Bashar al-Assad falls. Many Saudi-backed factions of the Free Syrian Army subscribe to extremist philosophies, and some Al Qaeda loyalists have set up courts and executed ‘informers’. On the whole, the FSA has added to its tactical advantage by holding the bases it captured; its previous policy was hit and run. Yet, in spite of these successes, it is unlikely it can defeat the state forces. UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi’s plan now calls for a transitional government followed by an election — whether parliamentary or presidential he didn’t make clear. He also said nothing about President Assad’s fate. The opposition has already made clear it will not negotiate with him. This means fighting will continue because the Syrian strongman appears determined not to learn from Muammar Qadhafi’s fate. Even his supporter, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, says the alternative to a negotiated settlement is “bloody chaos”.