U.N. Sends Truce Monitors into Syria
April 22, 2012
Sending observers into war-ravaged Syria, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hopes to reinforce Ghana-born former Secretary-General Kofi Annanís ceasefire plan, designed to stop Syrian President Bashar al-Assadís bloody crackdown. Placing 300 blue-helmeted, bulletproof-vested U.N. observers in the bullet-ridden streets of Homs, the U.N. hopes to force Assad into making concessions to opposition groups. U.N. officials had accused Assad of violating the delicate ceasefire designed to stop a bloody crackdown, causing thousands of civilian deaths since the uprising began March 15, 2011, only a few months after pro-democracy Tunisian revolution toppled the long-time government of President Zine El Abedine Ben Ali Oct. 23, 2010. Only a few months later, in whatís become known as the ďArab Spring,Ē Egyptís authoritarian but pro-Western 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak came to an end Feb. 11, 2011.
When long-time Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi was driven from Tripoli Aug. 24, 2011, it spelled trouble for the 46-year-old Assad, whose Alawite Shiite minority clings to power in an overwhelmingly Sunni country. Assad knows that, without ruling by consensus, his tenuous grip on power weakens daily with ongoing street protests. Despite ties to Lebanonís Islamic Hezbollah faction, Assad has received little support from its chief backer, Iran. Iranís Shiite mullahs have stayed out of Syriaís uprising that could eventually topple Assadís fellow Shiite regime. Placing U.N. observers around Syria makes Assadís job all the more difficult. U.N. chief Ban blasted Assad for violating Annanís peace mission. Insisting, ďthe gross violations of the fundamental rights of the Syrian people must stop at once,Ē Ban ignored Assadís problems with a growing Sunni uprising.
Since liberated from France in 1946, Syria has been a tightly controlled authoritarian regime, eventually taken over by Basharís father, Haffez al-Assad in 1971. Assadís small Shiite minority only accounts for 10% of the population, largely dominated by a pro-Islamic Sunni majority. Assadís problems, whether admitted to or not by the U.N., stem from trying to control Syriaís Sunni population, seizing upon recent power grabs in other Arab countries. Egyptís current dilemma stems directly from fundamentalist groups, largely headed by the Islamic Brotherhood, now controlling Egyptian politics. Assad knows that his Alawite sect is on the verge of extinction at the hands of a hostile Sunni majority. Deploying 300 U.N. observers make Assadís job of halting the current uprising more difficult. U.N. officials donít really get whatís at stake in Syria: Preventing a Wahhabi takeover of another Arab country.
Unlike Assadís Alawite sect, Wahhabists believe in strict Sharia law, turning back the clock, especially for the role of women in Islamic societies. U.N. intervention in Syria aims at halting the bloodshed but doesnít get the big picture of how Islamic extremism has turned the Middle East into the worldís terrorist breeding ground. If the lessons of Sept. 11 count for anything, itís the recognition that Islamic extremism poses implacable dangers to the civilized world. Without realizing the quicksand, the U.N. finds itself caught in the sticky wicket of battling Islamic extremism. Morphed from Operation Enduring Freedomís original mission to get Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, todayís Afghan War attempts to hold the line against the Talibanís brand of Islamic extremism. Like the U.S.-backed Karzai government in Afghanistan, Assad finds himself battling Islamic extremists.
Now that Egypt, Libya and now Syria face popular Islamic movements, itís more difficult for pro-Western governments to advance agendas in the Middle East. Itís no accident that Russia and China back Assadís Syria, opposing moves in the U.N. Security Council to bully Syria into making concessions with Islamic extremists. While opposition groups talk a good game, like they did in Egypt and Libya, the fact remains they want fundamentalist Sharia law to replace pro-Western authoritative regimes. Syriaís U.N. ambassador Bashar Jaíafari reassured the Security Council that Assad was withdrawing heavy armaments from besieged Syrian cities. ďLet there be no doubt. We, our allies and others in this body are planning and preparing for those actions that will be required of all of us if the Assad regime persists in the slaughter of Syrian people,Ē said U.S. U.N. ambassador Susan Rice.
Before the U.N. and U.S. inadvertently add to current Mideast chaos, they need to carefully evaluate the consequences of regime change in Syria. Russia and China see that tossing Assad under the bus helps no one in the Middle East, certainly not stable foreign business investment. If the shoe were on the other foot and the U.S. or Europe faced popular extremist uprisings, would they want their allies in the U.N. to back opposition groups? No matter how unseemly Assad, sovereign regimes have the right to defend themselves against enemies, both foreign and domestic. Former President George W. Bush saw firsthand what happened in 2006 when he backed free elections in Gaza: The people voted for Hamas, a State Dept. recognized terror group. Before selling Assad down the river, the U.N. and U.S. better know that his replacement wonít add to the Mideastís growing chaos.
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