It’s not news that our hands have been tied in Syria because of the UN Security Council’s inability to resolve the matter. The UN’s inability to ameliorate the situation has spurred individual stakeholders to meddle in Syria and push their own, often conflicting interests.
The prolongation of the revolution into a year-and-a-half long civil war has necessitated that Syrian forces organize from outside the country, and for other states interested in Assad’s fall to funnel arms to opposition groups. But, for Syria, the organization of forces in exile is problematic. In Tunisia, the presence of revolutionary forces outside the state was not an issue, and in fact led to a swift transition as Rashid al Gannoushi, leader of the Nahda (Renaissance) movement, arrived from exile in London just days after Ben Ali fell. In Syria, however, the Syrian National Council which I have previously written about here has faced leadership struggles throughout the prolonged transition process.
A national movement should remain organic and maintain the revolution’s original interests. Once certain factions begin to ally themselves with regional organizations, however, the movement becomes a regional conflict and any solution becomes more complex. Various opposition forces in Syria have allied themselves with foreign actors whose individual interests conflict and threaten the chance for national reconciliation.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have a core interest in bringing down Assad, an ally of their rival Iran, and have armed opposition forces for this cause. Should Assad fall, Russia and China will take measures to ensure that their core financial interests are still met. This means pushing for a government with whom they can form future partnerships. Now that Syrian chemical weapons have been exposed, Israel is prepared to intervene should the arms fall in the wrong hands. The Syrian people’s initial movement for human rights has devolved into a regional competition to secure military and financial interests. This is a dismissal of the original cause for revolution and a disregard for the thousands of lives that have been lost and continue to be lost.
Syria requires foreign intervention that looks at the situation as a humanitarian crisis and provides assistance through organizations like the UN. Undoubtedly, the UN Security Council requires reform: In response to the impasse in Syria, some have written in support of a measure to prohibit the UNSC from blocking action dealing with crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide.
I have been hesitant to label the situation in Syria as a civil war, but over time it has become clear that this is indeed the case when the military shoots at its citizens in a systemized manner, as opposed to the non-violent track initially taken by the Egyptian and Tunisian armies.
Certainly an organization representing a global unified body would have the most legitimacy. The UN was formed with the core principles of peace and security in mind, but a lack of unity of member states only magnifies the problems on the ground.