The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, recently suggested sending Arab troops to Syria in order to stop the violence there, and this proposal was supported by Amr Musa, former Secretary General of the Arab League and Egyptian presidential candidate. At the same time, the French Foreign Minister said that “the massacre continues, the silence of the Security Council too”, stressing that the situation is “becoming intolerable”. Other information indicates that America has requested the Turks to adopt a more active stance as well. Are we now facing the crystallization of an international position towards the situation in Syria?
I think so, especially as there are several indications of this, including the moves by some stakeholders in our region, especially with the Arab visits to Washington, or the international visits to Middle Eastern capitals, particularly those actively involved [in the Syrian crisis]. Above all this, there are the developments in Syria and al-Assad’s recent speech, which suggested the man was detached from reality. Al-Assad has nothing left but his evasive tactics, sometimes in the form of bombings in the presence of Arab observers every Friday, and other times when issuing an amnesty, as a formality, whenever the Arab League decides to meet to discuss the Syrian situation. There have been many al-Assad amnesty decisions, but without any real implementation!
Consequently, the question now is: could Arab troops be sent to Syria? Who could do so in light of the desperate defense of the al-Assad regime undertaken by Iraq, Algeria and Lebanon?
In the event that an Arab stance was formulated, without the requirement of consensus, and likewise an international one, to take action in order to stop the al-Assad killing machine, this would not only require sending Arab troops there, but also the move must be made under the umbrella of the security council, or through what we have repeatedly called an “international agreement of those willing”, in order to impose a buffer zone in Syria. The Turkish role is particularly important here. This would provide an opportunity for the largest possible number of Syrian army members to defect, which could accelerate an end to the suffering in Syria. The more army defections that take place, the greater the chances of a coup against al-Assad, or the collapse of his military forces. However, first and foremost, this matter requires an international effort, and more importantly an Arab one, in order to assist the Syrian opposition. One of the leading causes of the Syrian crisis is the opposition’s lack of access to genuine support, despite all the accusations that have been brought against it by the al-Assad regime and its allies.
As we have said repeatedly, this requires active Saudi, Turkish and Qatari roles, in addition to serious American action, in addition to the French and the British. This is especially considering the British Prime Minister’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia and his statements from there, showing that Britain is sincere in its desire to end the al-Assad killing machine. Such a move depends on the efforts of the aforementioned states to enact a real transformation in the Security Council, targeting the influential countries there, specifically China and Russia!
Thus, the story here is not a story of sending troops or reducing them, but rather it is the necessity of effective international action to support the Syrian opposition, and then secure a buffer zone. There must be a move from within the Security Council, or outside of it - through the formation of a coalition of those willing to save Syria, in order to put an end to an era that not only the Syrians have suffered from, but the entire region.
Tariq Alhomayed is the Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article first appeared on Jan. 16, 2012