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Eye on Damascus

A Syria officially at war with itself will further destabilise an important and fragile region

Written by The Indian Express | Published: June 14, 2012 3:11:16 am

A Syria officially at war with itself will further destabilise an important and fragile region

Syria is now in a state of “civil war”,says the UN’s head of peacekeeping,after UN monitors were fired upon on the outskirts of Haffa. Setting aside that claim,civil war is the mutation of the prolonged conflict the world fears. With sophisticated weapons reaching both government forces and rebels,it is unlikely either will relent. And unlike Libya,Syria has a loyal and strong army. So Syrians are caught between increasingly complex patterns of rebel attacks and a regime that appears to equate mass murder with strategy. The massacres in Houla and Hama indicate that the Bashar al-Assad regime is not going to stop the violence because it fears that a political engagement could give protests a breather to strike back harder.

UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan is unlikely to see implementation as long as the UN Security Council can do no more than lament and admonish. Russia is being blamed for supplying shiploads of arms to the Syrian government. Meanwhile,the US opposes Assad-backing Iran’s inclusion in Annan’s proposed working group comprising the UNSC permanent members and Syria’s neighbours Turkey,Saudi Arabia and Qatar,which back the rebels. With intervention not on the table,Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin’s summit in Mexico next week,during the G-20 meet,should allot sufficient time to Syria.

Things have got worse since India’s February vote in favour of the UNSC resolution vetoed by Russia and China. The Syrian problem has since moved beyond voting,and India — having jumped off the fence on the Arab revolutions with that vote — has little to do now directly. It must,however,keep talking to its partners in the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council. India’s economic and energy interests are tied up with the Gulf states. A Syria at civil war,going the Lebanon way,will deepen the sectarian divide in the Middle East and further destabilise a fragile region.

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