Syria Isn’t Yet the Battlefield of International Powers, but Assad May Make It One
It’s the high priority of the Assad regime to portray the conflict in Syria as an international contest. This aligns with the playbooks of Arab regimes rocked by uprisings, a tale of Western spies and satellite tv from Qatar combining forces to trick the people into turning against their decades old masters and protectors of national sovereignty. While this was desperate propaganda in a failed bid by Mubarak to rally counter-revolutionary masses against Tahrir, for Assad it is his pretext to wage an internal war.
It is this war by Assad that is threatening the stability and integrity of Syria. It is a war that grows less one sided as defections and volunteers bolster the armed opposition, an armed opposition Assad portrays as the hand of the West out to conquer Syria and transfer it to the U.S. imperial dominion. The irony is that it’s Assad’s forces who most evidently receive foreign backing. The weapons in the Syrian army are supplied by the Russians and the Iranians send money and snipers to assist in the crackdown.
There is already intervention in Syria and it’s on behalf of the regime and against the Syrian people. Subject to this foreign powered offensive by the regime is an out gunned opposition buying what weapons it can from the Lebanese black market and often from former colleagues in the Syrian army willing to sell weapons to be used against Assad. The armed opposition is well suited for preventing militia attacks but it can at best buy time for protesters and civilians to seek shelter when Assad’s army commits tanks and heavy weapons to assault opposition hotbeds. When the army went to retake Damascus suburbs secured by lightly armed opposition fighters, the fighters simply melted away, presumably to wait out an army overstretched by regions across the country falling into open revolt.
All of this comes amid frantic international diplomacy centered around the Arab League and its thus far failed attempts to end the violence. This international diplomacy was an effort to obtain a ceasefire, rather than a ritual of diplomacy proceeding the ultimate intent of a military intervention on behalf of the opposition. Quoting from the text of the Resolution:
“The Security Council… Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, emphasizing its intention to resolve the current political crisis in Syria peacefully, and noting that nothing in this resolution authorizes measures under Article 42 of the Charter”
Article 42 of the UN charter being the text authorizing use of military force as a last resort.
With the failure to arrange what was an effective ceasefire, we can be assured of the continuation of war like conditions, if not their escalation. The conflict can escalate with more defections, potentially ones reducing the opposition’s lack of heavy weapons, or the opposition can seek out its own patrons to gain a military edge within Syria. This is a dangerous new chapter Syria is entering, beyond the danger seen during months of protests repressed with live ammunition. The diplomats may not fall completely silent for now, but they’ll be drowned out by gunfire.