Desperation rises

A file picture shows a MIG-21. (AP Photo)

The defection of a Syrian air force pilot Thursday might not be significant in purely quantitative terms, but it does signal the latest level of desperation reached in the Syrian crisis.

The sight of a MiG flying to Jordan, where its pilot was granted asylum, is the first such event in the 15-month-old uprising against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The regime has, after all, claimed that the elite members of its military have yet to succumb to the wave of defection by conscripts and low-ranking officers. Also, Washington was quick to weigh in with a hearty welcome of the development.

Perhaps it is no surprise that the defection came from within the ranks of the air force, as the regime has increasingly relied on air power in its violent crackdown on Syrian rebels.

One worrying development is that the casualty rate continues to hold steady, if not grow – Thursday’s death toll topped 100 people, according to an opposition monitoring group.

This is not surprising, amid the deadlock over how to deal with the Syrian crisis. All regional and international efforts thus far have proved to be utter failures.

With the United States and Russia unable to reach a compromise on the issue, the regime in Damascus has been free to pursue its “security solution” with little fear of the repercussions, and shows no compunction in unleashing its air force against the population.

Meanwhile, the Syrian political opposition has also been busy issuing statements and planning for its latest meeting, following a dismal track record of earlier meetings, in various cities, which have had little impact.

Pope Benedict XVI has also weighed in on the situation in Syria, warning that the violence might be about to spread to neighboring states. But his pleas for urgent humanitarian aid to reach Syrian civilians have gone unheard, as with similar calls by other world leaders.

Amid all this, Moscow remains firm in its support for Assad, expressing its rejection of a political solution that removes the Syrian president from the picture.

The Syrians obviously feel that they still hold some cards, since sanctions on the regime appear to be diluted by the various ways that the Syrian economy can get around them.

But the Assad regime appears to be increasingly desperate as it acts based on the firm belief that its way – violence – is the only proper response to the situation.

In the meantime, the horrific toll in human life continues to mount, along with the horrendous cost to Syria’s economy, infrastructure and society: They are wounds that will take years to heal, and the lack of a resolution is only pushing back that date further, every day.

The scenario isn’t particularly surprising, given that the international community, despite all of its rhetoric, continues to practice a policy of “disassociating itself” from Syrian crisis.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 22, 2012, on page 7.




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