New York—The U.N. approved a binding resolution on Friday to strip the Assad regime of its chemical weapons. Damascus’s stockpile will be completely destroyed by the middle of 2014. Assad will also let U.N. experts examine all of its facilities. If Syria fails to comply, another meeting of the Security Council will delineate the consequences whether military intervention or economic sanctions, though Russia will not back a military option. This resolution sounds the death knell for the rebel army. Unless Syria fails to comply, which is unlikely considering how much Russia wants this, Syria’s Assad won’t fall. His consolidation of the country is assured.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced at the same meeting a peace summit to be held in Geneva between Assad and the opposition. But how can peace really be accomplished here? Assad is unlikely to give up territory to the rebel army. And those fighting him would open themselves up to revenge killings from Syrian military forces should they put down their weapons and come back into the fold.
Russia is supplying weapons to the regime, and more advanced one’s that the rebels have such as S300 defensive missile batteries. The U.S. and its allies were too slow in supplying the opposition, and is still skittish about it, lest they fall into the hands of Islamic militants and fuel another blowback scenario a la 9/11. Moscow has sent navy ships to Syria. Russia has troops in Syria, some of which were offered to guard the chemical weapons. Losing Syria would be losing Russia’s sole ally in the Middle East, a black eye at a time when Putin is trying to show the resurgence of Russian power and influence in the world. How can the U.S. strike Syria with Russian military personnel in the way? This situation has all the makings of a serious international incident.
Besides Russia’s shoring up of Syria, the opposition forces are too disorganized. Split between Islamic radicals and secular fighters, the Syrian opposition forces make Western governments, Gulf States and particularly Russia uneasy. This divide also makes it more difficult to create a united front against Assad, and it’s easier for him to draw a wedge between the two. He has also solidified Russian support not only for their fear of losing their only ally in the region, but their dread of Islamic militants having a haven to operate in, and causing further unrest in Chechnya, an Islamic province occupied by Russia.
Another reason why Syria’s Assad won’t fall, the proxy groups the West has supported are impotent. What’s more, the strongest fighters, mostly Islamic militants, recently abandoned the rebels altogether. The Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC) lost eleven of its most fearsome rebel brigades on Tuesday. The SOC itself is beset by infighting and woefully disorganized. And the momentum the rebels once had is lost. Assad’s forces are better organized, a professionally trained army. In addition, there are reports of Iranian and Hezbollah fighters are fighting alongside the Syrian army.
The war will end soon. The rebels are splintered and without momentum. Moscow has shored up Damascus. Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad has solidified his position, he won’t fall. But in this, a further international incident may have been averted. And the American public, by and large wasn’t behind a strike. But what can we do to assure a peaceful Syria that respects human rights and the rule of law? Right now, it seems the only thing we can safeguard Syrians against is the use of chemical weapons, and only in the long term.
By: Philip Perry