Imposed Regime Change Is Not The Answer


There was a fundamental problem with the Arab League’s UN Security Council proposal that the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, step down: it was not borne out of its own Observer Mission report.

The proposal was tabled by the only Arab state in the UNSC, Morocco, and also asks for a national unity government within two months. Such proposals suggest that there is growing faith in the opposition parties and less faith in the Syrian president.

While imposed regime change fits neatly into the Arab Spring narrative, the gap between the Observer Mission report and the failed UNSC resolution is as wide as the Arabian Gulf.

The Observer Mission covered the period from 24 December to 18 January, and their report is available online in English for anyone with a serious interest in the facts. The mission comprised 166 individuals from 13 Arab countries, including civilian and military experts, NGOs and human rights organisations. The observers were divided into 15 groups covering 20 cities, giving daily reports to their 24-hour operations room in Damascus.

Clause 13 paints a dark picture of the city of Homs, reporting: "an escalation in violence perpetuated by armed groups in the city… instances of kidnapping … sabotage of Government and civilian facilities … food was in short supply owing to the blockade imposed by armed groups".

Clause 26 extends this to Dera’a, where the Mission observed "armed groups committing acts of violence against Government forces, resulting in death and injury among their ranks … armed groups were using flares and armour-piercing projectiles … Government forces responded to attacks against their personnel with force."

Clause 27 covers Hama and Idlib, where the observers witnessed "acts of violence being committed against Government forces and civilians … bombing of a civilian bus … bombing of a train carrying diesel oil … a police bus blown up … small bridges were also bombed".

The report notes media exaggeration of numbers of people killed. Moreover, the total number reported to the western media does not discern between pro and anti government fatalities, so it has been wrongly assumed that the Syrian Government is the killing machine.

Clause 35 confirms that the Government had honoured its commitment to grant amnesty for crimes perpetuated from 15 March 2011 by "periodically releasing detainees".

Clause 44 reports that a "French journalist was killed by opposition mortar shells", although the opposition condemned and blamed the government.

Clause 54 notes legitimate concerns by the observers regarding their own safety given "the unavailability of armoured vehicles and protection vests", and that 22 left the mission prematurely.

Clause 71 expresses concern regarding an "armed entity that is not mentioned in the protocol", and also regarding the "excessive use of force by the Syrian Government forces in response to protests … demanding the fall of the regime".

Clause 74 confirms that "the citizens believe the crisis should be resolved peacefully through Arab mediation alone, without international intervention".

With this body of evidence from the authorised personnel, based on first hand and eyewitness accounts, the Qatar-led call for the president to step down is not only illogical but shows gross misreading of the situation. President Assad is a product of the ruling Baath Party, not the other way around. Rallies in Syria are testament to his personal popularity, and any forced ousting by the sponsored opposition militia will unleash a civil war.

Russia and China have been accused of abusing their veto power as permanent members of the UNSC in pursuit of a selfish national agenda rather than global humanitarian agenda, as was intended by the United Nations.

Where were these noisy critics when the United States threatened to abuse its veto power to support Israel in blocking the Palestinian bid for statehood status last year?

Two wrongs never made a right, and Assad has failed to win any friends with his litany of conspiracy theories and excuses for failing to implement civil reforms in a timely manner.

Sanctions are ineffective for an Arab republic that is highly self-sufficient.

Suspension from the Arab League is ineffective when most of the Gulf states are Sunni monarchies who scoff at the Syrian Alawite elite as un-Islamic. It is also highly hypocritical to be judged by these states whose respective human rights record with women, Christians and minorities is conveniently ignored.

The Observer Mission expresses repeated concerns over the "armed entities" who provoke the Syrian Government who in turn use excessive force. The circuit breaker is surely border control to stop the flow of armour, mercenaries and extremist clerics, followed by a timetable for implementing all the enacted reforms such as multi-party elections.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.