Syria: UN Out -- Where Is the West?

10/07/2011 11:44 am ET | Updated Dec 07, 2011

The UN Security Council rejected the imposition of sanctions on the Bashar Assad regime with a veto from Russia and China, no doubt a relief for the regime, but not a game changer. A regime such as Syria's has managed to survive for so long on the strength of its power of deterrence over its rivals, and the barrier of fear which was created after the wholesale massacre in Hammah on 1982.

Once there is no fear, a regime based primarily on force and more force is doomed. The final act is just a question of time and the UN's shameful decision will not alter this state of affairs. This is the same UN which reports that 2,900 Syrians already paid with their lives so that a hated dictator can prolong his stay in power. In opposition demonstrations in and out of Syria, Bashar has the dubious privilege of having his picture next to that of Adolph Hitler, and this is the same Bashar that an almost endless list of world dignitaries hailed as a man of "vision" and "reform". Among them was Secretary of state Hillary Clinton, repeating this theme on CBS on March 27th, when so many bodies were already piling up in the streets of Syrian towns and villages. A lot of water streamed since then in the Potomac, and more importantly in the Orontes in Syria.

The biggest change is the formation of the Syrian national Council, the umbrella Group of opposition factions, including the Muslim Brotherhood, ethnic and regional groups, such as Kurdish factions, and a variety of liberal-leaning, human rights groups. Most of them signed already the Antalya Declaration three months ago, so that in itself is no news, but there are significant elements that need to be emphasized. First, the inclusion of the Kurds, the largest ethnic minority in Syria, whose geopolitical importance derives from its location on the Turkish-Iraqi-Syrian borders.

Second, the council managed to overcome a lot of problems which arose during and after the Antalya meeting and threatened its cohesion. As time passes by, and the Council retains its internal unity it is becoming the undisputed alternative government of Syria and its stature grows accordingly in the international arena, as well as in Syria itself.

This is a dramatic departure from the days when a council with the same name was in exile in European capitals, issuing statements that were thrown to the dust bin of newspapers and radio and TV stations.

Third, while it may be too premature to conclude what exact ideological direction this council adopts, it is already possible to sense, that a new current of thought is emerging, one that can be defined as "Syriannism". Some explanation is needed here. Historically, Syria has been the seedbed of regional ideologies, such as Arab Nationalism, Arab Socialism and Pan-Syriannism. All failed to bring about political stability in the country, and the gradual collapse of the Ba'ath regime, based ideologically on uncompromising Arab nationalist doctrine, and practically on Sectarianism [Alawite domination] is the latest example of that.

It seems that the Syrian opposition is giving up on exporting political visions beyond its boundaries, and is turning its attention to the Syrian Watan [homeland in Arabic]. That could still prove the winning formula for the future of Syria, but a lot will have to happen in the meantime. For example, how to make good on the stated goals of the opposition when dealing with the Alawite minority? Also, how to precipitate the downfall of the murderous Assad regime, before the carnage in Syria will lead to tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of casualties? The Syrian opposition makes it clear, that they object the possibility of foreign military intervention, a position that should surprise no one who is aware of its political and ethnic composition. Still, the opposition expects political, financial and logistical support from the outside. This is where lack of new UN sanctions can be significant, unless the West , led by the US, gets into the picture, urgently and on a large scale. Turkey is already giving a hand, though some of the militant anti-Assad rhetoric of earlier days seems to be somewhat downplayed.With American encouragement, two other countries which share a border with Syria, Jordan and Iraq, can do a lot to support the Syrian rebels , something which the Ba'ath regime used to do against them, in other , better days of the Damascus government.

The brave Syrians who defy "their" regime deserve nothing less than that. Clearly, they deserve much more.