Some voices in the Syrian opposition have angrily rejected estimates by Kofi Annan, the UN and Arab League envoy to Syria, that international use of force against the Assad regime would worsen the situation and escalate the conflict.
One opposition leader, Burhan Ghalioun, told the Associated Press, “These kind of comments are disappointing and do not give a lot of hope for people in Syria being massacred every day.” He added that he hoped Mr. Annan has “a mechanism for ending the violence. My fear is that, like other international envoys before him, the aim is to waste a month or two of pointless mediation efforts.”
Annan, recently confirmed as a special envoy to Syria, said on Thursday, “I hope that no one is thinking very seriously of using force in this situation. I believe any further militarisation would make the situation worse. Ultimately the solution lies in a political settlement.”
This statement came just as the Obama administration retreated from its initial refusal to stay out of the conflict in Syria by agreeing this week to provide direct humanitarian and communications assistance to the Syrian opposition, increasing the potential for eventual military assistance as well.
But as Annan seemed to recognize, further militarizing the conflict in Syria could be to the detriment of Syrian civilians. The Syrian opposition is not cohesive, so getting aid to the intended people is nearly impossible. The opposition contains elements of extremists and perhaps al-Qaeda, which may indirectly end up aiding. Both sides have committed crimes and, as was seen in Libya, supporting an armed insurrection empowers disreputable fighting groups while marginalizing prospects for political peace.
Furthermore, intervention carries a high probability that the violence will consequently escalate, spread across the region, and embroil the United States in another deadly, protracted war in the Middle East. All of this is aside from the fact that the Obama administration has no authority to pick sides in a civil conflict which poses no threat to the United States. It is also likely that ulterior motives are at play: Washington wants to end the Assad regime and possibly replace it with a more obedient tyranny that will no longer align itself with Iran, the number one target among imperialists and foreign policy elites.
Elements of the Syrian opposition have been vying for an international military intervention on their behalf, so the response to Annan’s call for peace is unsurprising.
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