Last Updated: Mon Sep 19, 2011 13:50 pm (KSA) 10:50 am (GMT)

Syria and the tough decision

Dawood al-Shirian

‘To hell with Russia!’ That is how the Syrian people think of Russia after the country obstructed a Security Council resolution that condemns Bashar al-Assad’s regime for repression and the killing of civilians.

The truth is, Western countries have not made up their minds yet about what to do in Syria, and that is why Russia will not stand in the way in case they decide to adopt the initiative of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to take action against Syria.

Plus, Russia’s stance springs from flagrant political opportunism that relies on discrediting an entire people and supporting the Assad regime.

Western countries are still undecided about how to deal with the Syrian crisis not because of a dispute over the division of wealth, because Syria is not an oil country.

However, it is a country whose political position plays an important role in the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as in the stability of neighboring countries.

That is why a regime change requires an alternative that is willing to accept the conditions or price of intervention. But this alternative is facing obstacles at the moment in the light of the disagreements between opposition factions: some parties are adamant about protecting the sovereignty of the country and therefore reject any intervention, despite their belief that the defeat of the regime requires foreign assistance.

Meanwhile, others call for imposing a no-fly zone and establishing a security zone on the borders with Turkey under the protection of NATO and Turkish forces. The latter do not mind a reenactment of the Libyan scenario.

There is no doubt that the Syrian opposition is facing a crisis of conscience – or you could call it an ethical dilemma – and many of its members would like to have a way around that tough choice.

Rejection of intervention means delaying the fall of the regime, deepening the division of the country, and sustaining more losses on both the human and political levels.

Accepting intervention will speed up the fall of the regime, but hundreds of thousands of lives will be lost and Syria will sacrifice its sovereignty and its right to self-determination.

There is no doubt that the Syrian opposition is facing a tough historic decision, and saying that disagreements among opposition factions is indicative of the diversity that Syria lacks is a dangerous simplification at best. That is why national interests should take priority over the conflict between different powers.

Opposition factions inside the country should also be given a role in the choice between external intervention and the continuation of civilian resistance. The experience of some Arab countries that witnessed a regime change by force demonstrates that external opposition factions on the outside do not see beyond their noses.

Dawood Al Shirian is an acclaimed columnist. He is also Deputy General Manager of Al Arabiya, and Editor in Chief of Alarabiya.Net. The article was first published on Sept. 19, 2011, in al-Hayat and translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid.

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