Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Syrian Revolution: An Affair to Remember

Chicago.- I remember Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s body language in the media at the beginning of the revolution in 2011. He looked defiant, like he wanted to show his comrades that the rebels were insignificant to him. After all, Assad was in charge of the army and had the backing of Russia and Iran in case anything got out of control. I thought, “This guy doesn’t see what’s coming to him,” and hoped that he would be deposed soon.
More than two years later however, Assad is still in power, more than 100,000 people have died, and a chemical attack on August 21st killed hundreds of people. Syria and Russia blame the rebels, but a United Nations report and intelligence gathered show that the rebels did not have the capability to launch such an attack

It is sad to think that children and women caught up in the conflict are dying every day in Syria. It is unfortunate that more isn’t being done by global bodies like the United Nations, whose outdated structure has made it obsolete in this war. The United Nations Security Council, which is the only body that can authorize direct intervention in a country, cannot pass a resolution because Russia and China back Assad and have veto power. The Council has five permanent members: The United States, China, France, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom, and they all have to vote yes for a resolution to intervene in Syria to pass. Russia and China vetoed a recent resolution backed by all other permanent members.

Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks he’s on the right side of the conflict by supporting Bashar al-Assad, a criminal who’s been murdering his own people with Russian and Iranian weapons for over two years now. I can see why Putin’s doing it. He an Assad have lots in common: They are ruthless rulers who only look out for their families and those who help them run their corrupt governments. Putin is afraid that the Arab Spring may spill over and inspire people in Russia. After all, Putin’s a dictator himself disguised as a democratically elected official. He has jailed his main opponents, promotes homophobia, and who knows if he’s involved in the killing of so many journalists in the last 10 years in Russia. Many think so.

I am not in favor of starting a war, but sometimes that is the only option left to end genocide. It was necessary to stop Germany during World War II, and it was also justified to do it in Afghanistan, where the Taliban controlled—and still controls— regions of the country, stoning women to death and hurting little girls because they want to go to school. Sadly, it is also easy to assume that if this wasn’t happening in the Middle East much more would’ve been done to end the suffering already. The war in Iraq didn’t help the Syrians either. It took the resources of the United States military and the lives of many of its soldiers, leaving many in this country with little appetite for a new war in this troubled region.

However long it takes for Assad to go, Vladimir Putin has already put Russia on the wrong side of history. It was the Soviet Union that provided Syria with most of its chemical arsenal, and Putin has been giving weapons to Assad since the revolution began.  It was also Russia (along with China) that deadlocked the United Nations Security Council when the United States, France and the United Kingdom wanted to put together a coalition to bring an end to the killing of the Syrian people. And that’s how Russia will be remembered when people look back decades from now, when people talk about the Arab Spring and the struggle of the Syrians against one of the worst dictators in human history.

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