Who started the fighting? That question is one that is often put to the world when we seek to bring order to the violence. In reality when the violence starts it rarely matters who started the fight. The first order of business is to stop the fight. However, we are hearing that question all too often in the case of Syria.
The recent fighting has now crossed into Turkey. Again we do not know who fired across the border first. Anyone with a small amount of tactical knowledge will understand how easy it is to stage such an event. A small group of five people can lure a tank within range, overtake it while ensuring it is operational and then fire all rounds off. Honestly, at this point it hardly matters as we can be sure that neither side will adhere to a ceasefire agreement. This is leaving the world few options. The one option that needs to be thrown out is the arming of the opposition forces. Arming the opposition will only ensure the chaos continues, death toll rise and more instability within the region.
If the world is so concerned to bring peace to Syria, send peacekeepers, observers, medical aid and food aid. Enforce an arms embargo, tighten the borders as much as possible and put equal pressure on every side to stop killing each other. These are the measures that must be taken. However, I do not hold out much hope for such measures being taken.
It has been reported a great many times that the opposition a fragile coalition. There is less support within Syria for the opposition than the current government. Furthermore, the opposition is composed of known international terrorists with very little desire for peace. We also know that if the current leadership within Syria falls there will be a major power vacuum. That vacuum will be filled many groups all fighting for power. That is a scenario worse than what is currently taking place in Syria.
If the current leadership falls, Syria will be a haven for weapons smuggling in that region. Iraq is already a prime route for such. Syria will only provide more avenues for the destabilization of the entire region. Looking forward that would lead to attacks on Jordan, Israel, Iran, Lebanon and Turkey. Of course that is pure speculation as it points to a “what if” scenario. Yet that reality must be front on mind when looking at the current push for the leadership in Syria to step down.
At the moment there is no credible leadership to take its place. Despite what the Friends of Syria say. The world has been told that options in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan were better than the old leadership. In each case those regions are no better today than they were fifteen years ago, perhaps worse.
As brutal as it seems, the current leadership in Syria must remain if peace is the true goal. The world needs to focus on the 26 Feb referendum that called for political change. That is the foothold for peace. It is a legally binding process that the people of Syria have asked for, the current leadership has endorsed and the international community would be wise in pursuing.
There is still a major need for peacekeepers, observers, humanitarian aid and international journalists to have access within Syria. None of these should be seen as a breakdown in sovereignty. To the contrary, such measures should be seen as a boost to Syrian sovereignty. There is an international campaign being waged inside Syria to topple the government and the international community should help to bring that opposition.