Crossing the red line

As the international community looks on,Syria’s terrible conflict is getting worse

Written by The Indian Express | Published: April 27, 2013 2:49:17 am

As the international community looks on,Syria’s terrible conflict is getting worse

Syria’s civil war has seen at least 70,000 deaths till date,according to UN estimates. It has displaced almost three million people internally,while forcing several thousands to flee across the country’s borders. Having begun with the Arab uprisings more than two years ago,the conflict has endured regime change in a number of states. Now there appears to be limited but growing evidence that chemical weapons have been used,albeit on a small scale,by government troops. Although there’s no conclusive proof yet,this would be the “red line” US President Barack Obama had warned the Bashar al-Assad regime to not cross,and a war crime if proven. The US has acknowledged that its intelligence agencies believe “with varying degrees of confidence” that the nerve agent sarin has been used.

The Syrian conflict has resisted international intervention partly because of the inability of the UN Security Council to act in the face of stiff Russian and Chinese opposition. And partly because of US hesitation to rush into another Iraq-like military venture and undo its painstaking image makeover in the region. Attempts at tipping the balance between the regime and the rebels had,therefore,to resort to diplomatic alternatives like recognising the opposition and increasing non-lethal aid to the rebels,who now control the larger territory. The constraints on the international community have emboldened Assad and allowed fundamentalist forces to increasingly take over the rebel space.

Obama’s cautious approach has drawn criticism from both Republicans at home and those advocating overt military aid to the rebels. To stem Syria’s humanitarian tragedy,the remaining options are a UN endorsed no-fly zone and a halt to arms transfers to the regime. Meanwhile,soil samples and victims’ photos will need further analysis for conclusive proof of the use of chemical weapons.

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