The tide’s turning

FILE - Syria's national flag is pictured next to closed windows of the Syrian embassy to Germany in Berlin, May 29, 2012. (REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz)

It took a massacre in Houla to prompt the entire world to increase pressure on the Syrian regime, even its own allies. But expelling Syrian diplomats alone is not going to force President Bashar Assad to stick to Kofi Annan’s six-point plan.

For Assad and his regime are maintaining their line that it is in fact “terrorist groups” who are responsible for at least 13,000 deaths over the last 15 months, and that government troops played no part in the Houla massacre, despite U.N. evidence to the contrary. And those surrounding Assad have already shown that they are undeterred by mere condemnation, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem last year saying that Syria would forget Europe exists after the EU slapped sanctions on the regime.

But hopefully the expulsion Tuesday by over 10 countries of their highest-ranking Syrian envoys marks just the beginning of a new round of snowballing measures, because until now the regime has simply given the U.N. the same empty promises it has previously used as smoke and mirrors against the Arab League.

This tactic is being used very simply as a method of treading water, giving the regime the time they need to finish what they have started, and to achieve what appears to be their horrific aim – physically removing any trace of opposition. But to think they can carry this out reveals they are belittling the international community. The bravery of the Syrian people, which only seems to be increasing by the day, will not let them achieve that.

So instead, the killings and slaughtering of innocent people will continue, and this civil war, already and undeniably entrenched across the country, will rage on.

At the beginning of the popular uprising last year, the regime stalwarts warned that the fall of Assad would endanger neighboring powers. But now even Assad’s strongest allies are beginning to waver in their support, with China even condemning Friday’s massacre.

Ignoring all the lessons of history, from classic to modern and regional, Assad and his oligarchy seem to have deliberately shielded themselves from the writing on the wall. And so the massacres and mayhem will continue, the lives of ordinary Syrians will become increasingly unsettled and the future of the country will look ever more to be one beset by sectarian tensions, violence and poverty.

This country, which was once a regional power player, will become a burden to its neighbors and possibly even the international community, as such tensions will provide a fertile breeding ground for terrorism, with people sidelined and believing they have nothing left to lose.

The global community must now take their reactions to every incident of regime violence to the next level, in order to hasten the end to this prolonged tragedy, to minimize the death toll and to salvage some resemblance of a state for the Syrian people.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 30, 2012, on page 7.




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