UN Observers Committed to Staying in Syria

The head of the UN mission retreated from earlier statements that the mission would be suspended due to worsening violence

by John Glaser, June 19, 2012

The head of the UN observer mission in Syria said Tuesday that UN monitoring forces have come under fire several times recently but are committed to staying in the country, retreating from earlier statements about suspending the mission due to worsening violence.

Maj. Gen. Robert Mood said after a private briefing of the Security Council that reports about canceling the mission were premature, noting, “We are not going anywhere.” He also said UN forces have come under fire at least 10 separate times.

Violence, even that aimed at civilians, has been attributed both to the regime of Bashar al-Assad and to the Syrian rebel militias. “The suffering of the Syrian people, the suffering of men, women and children, some of them trapped by fighting, is getting worse,” Mood told reporters.

For now, the White House has officially opposed direct military intervention on the grounds that it would lead to greater chaos and escalate the humanitarian crisis in the country.

“We do not believe that militarization, further militarization of the situation in Syria at this point is the right course of action,” White House Spokesman Jay Carney said. “We believe that it would lead to greater chaos, greater carnage.”

While the Obama administration rightly opposes military intervention, they have unfortunately already begun providing lethal and non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition. This, despite the fact that the rebel fighters have committed serious atrocities themselves and that al-Qaeda elements are known to cooperate in the rebel fight against Assad.

The administration’s aid to rebels is reckless for various reasons. As Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and an expert on Syria, wrote in Foreign Policy this month, “Let’s be clear: Washington is pursuing regime change by civil war in Syria. The United States, Europe, and the Gulf states want regime change, so they are starving the regime in Damascus and feeding the opposition.”

This is exacerbating the conflict, increasing and prolonging the suffering of the Syrian people.  Support for the Assad regime from Russia and Iran and for the opposition from the U.S. and its allies in Europe and the Persian Gulf is emboldening both sides and preventing either from giving up and ceding to a political transition.

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