The ongoing hostilities between the Syrian Army and citizen protesters has prompted international envoy Kofi Annan to issue a truce plan to the Syrian regime. Prior to the withdrawal deadline, which was set for Tuesday, it is believed that about 1,000 people have been killed in attacks over the past week, with at least 29 civilians and 11 regime soldiers killed on Tuesday alone.
Annan's plan requires Syrian forces to retreat from towns and villages on Tuesday, and for a cease-fire to begin by 6 a.m. Thursday Damascus time. Obviously as demonstrated by the death toll of Tuesday alone, the Syrian regime is not adhering to the plan set forth by the envoy. While some of the troops are withdrawing from particular regions, others are moving in to different areas simultaneously.
With no willingness on the part of other countries to intervene militarily, the cease-fire planned for Thursday may be the only thing that could prevent Syria from breaking into a complete civil war. It appears that Syrian opposition leaders have accepted the terms of the cease-fire despite the fact that troops have not all been withdrawn from Syrian regions.
The United Nations claims that upwards of 9,100-11,000 people have been killed in the conflicts, which were sparked by initial public demonstrations at the beginning of 2011, in conjunction with the Arab Spring. Reports of the death toll vary amongst different governmental organizations, numbers which the Syrian government refutes.
Although there has yet to be direct military intervention from the international community, the Arab League, members of the EU, and the United States have publicly condemned the use of violence against the protesters conducted by the government. The Arab League has also suspended the country's membership.
The question that remains is whether or not foreign countries should provide military intervention in Syria, should the cease-fire be disobeyed by the government. The United States needs no additional incentive to dislike president Bashar al-Assad, as he is not only guilty of committing what many are calling a genocide in Syria currently, but also claimed publicly that he was both anti-Israel and anti-West.
Should the United States provide military intervention, there is a risk that Israel could become a target of the Syrian military. All President Obama has done to incite action in Assad is sign an executive order in May 2011, stating that the Syrian president's assets in the United States or anywhere under American jurisdiction would be frozen. And despite a speech delivered by Assad in June 2011, in which he promised more freedom to his citizens and a national movement towards reform, the violence has escalated all the more. So long as Assad believes that he is winning a battle, which he believes was initiated by foreign influences in Syria, he will continue to wage war on the protesters in his country.
Of course, one can only hope that the cease-fire works, but as the bombardment from the government continues Tuesday, it seems unlikely that Assad will bend. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said he wants Assad to be referred to the International Criminal Court for his actions. After Syrian troops fired over the Turkey-Syria border on Monday, Turkey has decided to join forces with Saudi Arabia to discuss courses of action against Syria on Friday. Their plan of cooperation will likely entail the funding of rebels against Syrian troops.
With the cease-fire deadline quickly approaching, and an upcoming meeting between members of the Turkish and Saudi Arabian governments, something has finally got to give. Unfortunately the United States can do little right now, waiting to witness the results of the upcoming days. Should Turkey and Saudi Arabia provide funds to the rebels, it's difficult to hope that any of the violence will stop. President Assad must be brought to justice by the International Criminal Court in order for the conflict to subside. Inciting a civil war is not a feasible option for Syria to depose Assad, whose steadfastness against the protesters is unrelenting. Despite Annan's continued optimism about his plan, it seems like peace is not in the imminent future for Syria
Follow Gideon Resnick on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@GideonResnick