Zvi Bar'el / As UN approves Syria observer mission, discord plays into Bashar Assad's hands
Security Council adopts a resolution to deploy 300 observers to Syria, yet ethnic strife on the ground and disagreements among world powers cast doubt over mission's effectiveness.
The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Saturday that authorizes an initial deployment of up to 300 unarmed military observers to Syria for three months to monitor a fragile week-old ceasefire in a 13-month old conflict.
The Russia-European drafted resolution said that deployment of the UN observer mission, which will be called UNSMIS, will be "subject to assessment by the Secretary-General (Ban Ki-moon) of relevant developments on the ground, including the cessation of violence."
The discord leading up to the resolution, however, has played into the hands of Bashar Assad's government, which on one hand has declared it is willing to comply with the plan and on the other continues to attack urban areas in the sake of defending the government institutions. The regime is also well-shielded from foreign intervention as China and Russia adamantly oppose NATO involvement against Syria.
The UN Security Council's resolution on Saturday also noted that the cessation of violence by both the government and opposition is "clearly incomplete," and warned that the 15-nation body could consider "further steps" in the event of non-compliance with its terms.
Yet given the fact that the political opposition has no real solution other than calling for military intervention – and when the Syrian opposition inside Syria is divided between the Syria Free Army, headed by Colonel Riyad al-Assad, the Free Officers Organization headed by brigadier general Husam Awak, and the Syrian National Council headed by Mustafa al-Sheikh – the regime can carry on with its attrition war virtually without a time limit.
At the same time, a new kind of civil war is unfolding in Syria's conflict zones – Sunni citizens are kidnapping Shiite citizens, and vice versa. Neighboring villages who once lived in peace with each other have become enemies solely due to their ethnicity, and according to reports, this hostility may develop into an all-out civil war which no regime will be able to stop.
"In our village, they kidnapped 12 citizens for no reason in the middle of the day," said a Sunni man who lives in Idlib province. "We went out and kidnapped 30 Shiite citizens from the next-door village and began negotiating with the abductors," he said. "In the end we managed to free all of the kidnapped on all sides, but the event was etched in our memory and the mutual dread is increasing."
It seems that disagreements exist not only between Syrian ethnic groups or members of the Security Council; the so-called supporters of the opposition, "the Friends of Syria," are not exactly a united front. For example, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu – who sees himslef as spearheading the anti-Assad efforts – refused to take part in the press conference that ended the Friends of Syria group summit in Paris on Thursday.
The reason for Davutoğlu's stance was French President Nicolas Sarkozy's intention to manage the press conference and use it to demonstrate – on the eve of the French eletions – his involvement and efforts in trying to find a solution to the Syrian crisis.
Davutoğlu said that he thought it would unfair to take part in such an event "while Syrian citizens are suffering" - underscoring Turkey's insistence on positioning itself at the forefront of the struggle against assad.
In addition, this was another opportunity for Turkey to remind France of its deep disappointment over Paris' effort to legislate the law against denying the Armenian Holocaust. For the Syrians, this arm-wrestling surely does not hold any promise.