The on-going Syrian civil war had started in March 2011 and has killed at least 34,000 people according to conservative estimates by human rights activists. It has spread all across Syria and has now involved surrounding countries, including Turkey, with which Syria has exchanged artillery fires several times during this month. Lebanon has also been engulfed in this conflict by Syria with a car bomb exploding on October 19 in Beirut leading investigators through a trail to Syrian involvement. Although Syria presented its condemnation of the attack through its Information Minister, Omran Zoabi, the violence in Syria is at peak. Lebanon has called for a “Day of Rage” against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The human rights violations by Assad’s forces are immense and various campaigners and activists of international human rights organisations are calling the situation worst. Syria has also accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of supporting the rebels that have killed many government personnel and soldiers. Recently, the international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, who is the joint UN-Arab League special envoy for the Syrian conflict, met with Assad to convince him on a ceasefire. Brahimi has been moving around in the region meeting with Syrian leaders and opposition members, including Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, to set up a peace agreement between the Syrian government and the insurgents bent on overthrowing it.
The Islamic occasion of Id al-Adha, a three-day Muslim religious festival, will be celebrated on October 26th. Brahimi hopes to see peace that day. However, Assad is uncertain how much he could trust the rebels on this peace proposal before he could put his forces to respite and wants a guarantee of reciprocity. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is also of the view that a ceasefire should be observed for three-to-four days during the Islamic occasion.
The problem is with the ceasefire being followed in letter. The last time in April, a call for a ceasefire was taken not seriously, as within a few days the fires re-started. Due to the re-emerging tensions, Kofi Anan resigned from his post of the mediator after a few months. This newly suggested truce would be self-imposed with no international observers keeping any check. The United States, another external influence on the issue, has also supported the call for ceasefire despite wanting Assad out of power.
The U.S. has blamed Russia and China for supporting Syrian regime and for blocking the UN Security Council’s pressure on the Syrian government. Syria’s ally, Iran, has also backed the idea of the ceasefire, but does not want to press Syria for fear of its foreign interference on the issue, and same stand has been made by Russia and China. They have in turn accused the Western powers of needlessly interfering in the Syrian civil crisis by supporting Arab allies and the Syrian armed opposition. The conflict might turn into a sectarian proxy war with Arabs fighting on religious lines with no unity amongst the international community over finding a solution.
Due to opposition and clash of interests in the UN Security Council, it often fails to resolve issues. Although the Syrian people are reportedly in favour of a ceasefire and want to see an end to this seemingly never-ending conflict, but they do not trust Assad’s forces to take any rest. Unless any realistic grounds of bringing together the Syrian civil society, political parties and Assad’s supporters are found, there could be no space for any constructive dialogue.
That realistic ground has to be found without any foreign intervention as that would involve clashing interests of both sides. The Syrians would have to work their own problems out by coming together on this issue. If the ceasefire opportunity over this Islamic occasion could be seized, then further permanent peace initiatives could be taken. Both the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi are hopeful if these measures could materialize.
If any ceasefire call does not succeed and if the conflict carries on, in the coming days and months, we will see Syria’s military clash with Turkey, as the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is all prepared with his forces. Despite strong opposition by Turkish people in their public opinion of such a step, Turkey is on a look-out for a chance to wage a full-scale war with Syria. With the heavy cross-border firing between the two states, it is very likely that Turkey might just get its way. Turkey has already banned Syrian aircrafts from entering its airspace. If a deal is not struck soon, Middle East might very likely see another regional Arab war.