The optimistic predictions that the Arab Spring would bring forth democracy in the dictatorial Arab geography has turned into a nightmare in Syria. The most innocent demands for human rights by the general public were suppressed with the most ruthless methods. The Ba'athists, believing that differences of opinion and sects between the majority of the public and the state would be detrimental for the regime in Syria, began crushing the opposition in the most brutal way. Meanwhile, the Syrian community was already fragile and removed from the consciousness of being a united nation and therefore the opposition consisted of largely fragmented groups. During the Ba'ath regime, social groups were differentiated between their closeness to the regime or not, but divergences routinely multiplied due to religious, ethnic or sectarian differences. A low-level conflict has been going on for years amongst Christians, Sunni Muslims who are much or less in opposition to the regime, as well as social groups including merchants and students seeking democracy, and particularly Kurds and Turkmen residing close to the Turkish border with no citizenship rights.
The Syrian state presumes it is punishing the opposition through devastating the country’s cities by means of recurrent bombardments. The opposition, which initially appeared as one body, started to disintegrate gradually. Maybe there is only one Ba'ath Party and one Assad, but there are far more than one opposition group and of course, there are innumerable armed organizations. The significance of foreign support to either the regime or the opposition defines the impact any particular group will make. For that reason since Russia, Iran and China fortify the Ba'ath regime, it is almost impossible to counter the ongoing massacres with an adequate or credible response in the international arena. To this very day, the civil war that began in March 2011 and has resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians, led to millions of others forced to seek protection in neighboring countries, persists in the most bloody way.
There are various complicated reasons why such incidents do not receive much reaction from the international community. First and foremost, China and Russia, countries that possess veto rights in the UN Security Council, consider the perpetuation of the Syrian regime to be crucial, and Shia Iran gives support in terms of its sectarian advocacy; the passive politics of the West along with the general weakness of the US position to influence events in Syria has brought the conflict to a bloody stalemate.
The initial meetings between the opposition and the Ba'ath regime along with the UN permanent member states were held on June 30th, 2012 in Geneva. The consensus was to end the bloodshed in the country, but with no path to a resolution an impasse formed when deciding who would be on the expected transitional government. Russia interfered with a diplomatic move that impeded the discussions and a general consensus was made for resolving the matter at the Geneva II Conference.
What was Geneva II Conference heading for?
The purpose of the conference was to find a resolution for ending the violence and to put an end to the war that has resulted in the death of more than 130 thousand people, and for opening humanitarian aid corridors and to establish a transitional government in the country. The UN Special Advisor, Lakhdar Brahimi, carried out intermediation on these topics. The major conflict that arose at this conference was whether President Assad should resign or not. The Syrian regime, backed by its powerful allies, claimed that 44 members of the Syria National Coalition did not represent the entire opposition in the country, and insisted the government should definitely involve Assad or the Ba'ath Party; as a result, the conference was pulled back from its initial position. Following an almost half hour assembly with the parties, Brahimi made an apology to the Syrian people, reluctantly announcing that conference closed with no resolution, and the parties went back to their respective countries.
While such lengthy diplomatic conferences are held, thousands of people are still being murdered, wounded, maimed and seeking shelter in bordering countries. Turkey’s efforts for uniting the opposition in Syria under the framework of the ‘Friends of Syria’ group and its aspirations for their international recognition is again far from bringing a resolute outcome. Turkey, the neighbor of Syria with the longest border, has been actively involved in the affairs for the unity of Syria and in securing the democratic rights of its people: Moreover, Turkey has opened its borders to 700,000 people of a variety of ethnicities and faiths not as refugees, but as guests and employed its own resources to provide relatively better accommodation when compared to other countries as noted by UN representatives. However, the conundrum of the Syrian people is dreadful, and it is exceedingly difficult to correct it from outside.
The settlement of the Syrian crisis could be accomplished with Turkey acting as a catalyst for convincing the major powers; in particular, at a time when the international isolation of Iran is lessening, that could be an important opportunity. The right set of circumstances allowing Iran to open up globally to the world would lead the country to change its policies regarding Syria. That would mean the most important obstacle before a solution without Assad could be put aside. Surely, Russia must be won over by giving assurances regarding its interests in Syria. Only then can the EU and US contribute to a resolution with a degree of ease.