BEIRUT

Editorial

Nothing left to lose

A handout picture released by the Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network on July 15, 2012 allegedly shows smoke rising from the Jouret al-Shayyah neighbourhood of the Syrian central city of Homs, following shelling by forces loyal to the Syrian government regime. Syria's military deployed armoured vehicles near central Damascus on July 16, as troops battled rebels around the capital in what activists said could be a turning point in the 16-month uprising. "AFP PHOTO / HO / SHAAM NEWS NETWORK"

The charade in Syria goes on, with no sign of conclusion, despite the outward movements by the regime, the opposition and the international community.

Kofi Annan continues his tour of futility, a tour that has put him under serious suspicion that his agenda is not to solve the situation in Syria. With his history and background this is not a fantastic possibility.

The Russians maintain their stance steadfastly in the knowledge that the Americans and the rest of the West have no teeth to face them down. Russia is fighting for its existence in this part of the world and is unlikely to risk giving that up easily.

They are also trying to suppress the takeover of Islamists, which might spread to its borders. In this, Iran and Russia share similar aims. It is because of this threat that Iran, too, if nothing else, will support the Syrian regime until the very end.

Further blocking any real change is the fact that the West itself is suffering economically. They are not in the mood to enter an adventure that would rock any boat, when they are already sailing in uncharted waters. America is still reeling from its ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the nation has no desire to become entrenched in another conflict.

The country’s forthcoming elections, too, are dividing attention, and switching America’s focus to its domestic troubles.

Russia, China and Iran know very well that this is the situation. So does the Syrian regime, a fact which explains its nonchalance to all condemnations and appeals issued against it. For them this state of affairs represents a golden opportunity to continue its killings.

Now the war has arrived on Damascus’ doorstep, a new development which, when coupled with the mounting defections and the opposition’s control of certain areas, may create pressure for the money to begin seeping out of Syria. Such a situation would increase the economic disaster the country is already facing, as its currency is devalued and the repercussions of sanctions start to bite.

The support from Russia and Iran cannot last forever. Iran, in particular, is suffering its own economic troubles. But the day that support runs out is likely to be far off. Russia sees Syria as its only foothold in the Mediterranean. Its support for the Syrian regime therefore has nothing to do with its love for the country’s people.

Out of this mess, it is near impossible to see a light at the end of the tunnel for the Syrian people. The awakening of the international community and its conscience is a far-fetched wish.

It therefore should come as no surprise to anyone when the Syrian regime continues in its policy of killing. And while the opposition continues to seek all kinds of assistance, they are backed into a corner, meaning their confrontation with the regime is bound to be as fierce as it could possibly be, thanks to the fact they now have nothing to lose.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 17, 2012, on page 7.

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