It comes as no surprise, that as the deadline for the UN – Arab League brokered Syrian ceasefire agreement is upon us, President Assad and his cronies have, like petulant children who stubbornly refuse to lose, changed the rules at the last minute and now refuse to participate.
When Kofi Annan left Damascus he and Assad had apparently agreed upon a six point plan that would see the regimes forces pull out of key cities and work towards a ceasefire beginning April 10. Even Syria’s number one supporter and major arms supplier, Russia, agreed to support the plan, along with other perennial vetoer China. A determined, yet sceptical Annan, looks to have had his worst fears realised, with little evidence of Assad’s forces retreating and the President has now called for opposition groups to lay down their arms first and give written guarantees they will do so. What will he do next, accuse them of poking their tongue out and making funny faces while Kofi Annan has his back turned?
In an interesting aside it has been revealed that UK, US, German and Israeli companies are amongst the biggest exporters of mobile phone surveillance equipment to Syria, Iran, Yemen and Bahrain where political activists are known for organising through mobile technology including phones and the internet.
Furthermore, not content with a month of blocking aid to those who are still left breathing in the city of Homs, continuing to murder, rape and torture civilians and generally destroy the country, reports are now flowing in of Assad’s henchmen shooting unarmed refugees who have been fleeing into Lebanon and Turkey, showing just how brazen the regime has become.
As the Syrian opposition, increasingly armed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, battles on, Assad has been able to yet again thumb his nose at the world and get away with it. An estimated 9,000 – 10,000 people have now lost their lives since the uprising began in early 2011 and as always, it shows no sign of stopping, with daily reports of the murder, rape, torture and persecution of civilians.
How long does the world now wait for Assad to stand down, let alone sit at the negotiating table and seriously work towards a solution? He has shown no sign in the past 13 months that he will listen to anybody, except of course those who are arming and propping up his murderous government, Moscow we are looking at you. While there is understandable reluctance for military intervention given Russia, China and Iran are close buddies of Syria how long do we wait before there have been too many deaths – 20,000, 30,000, 50,000? How many Syrian lives will it take? For now, Annan should be supported in his attempts to negotiate a peaceful agreement, for Syria dissolving into another Iraq or Afghanistan would arguably be worse than what it is now, but how much time do we afford the UN, Arab League and peaceful means?
How long will it be before we will hear world leaders say of Syria, ‘never again’.