Whilst being aware that Muslims in the Middle East have a habit of stage managing a crisis, one thing is now certain about the Syrian situation – people were killed when one side used them during the past week. The medical evidence has come from doctors associated with the group Doctors Without Borders of Medecins sans Frontieres, if you prefer. It is estimated that more than 300 people died from the use of a neurotoxic chemical.
It is not clear as to who used the chemicals because there are claims that bombs containing the chemicals were dropped upon the population in Damascus. If it was done via small bombs then it is most likely that the attack was done by Assad. If not, then the claim that the Opposition forces were responsible remains the choice.
Significantly, the President of Iran Hasan Rouhini has acknowledged the use of the chemical weapons against the Syrian population. He has, however, left open the possible perpetrator.
Now, what bothers me in this story is that Assad continues to refuse outsiders to moniter what is going on. This is a very wrong-headed attitude. If he has nothing to hide then he should welcome the outsiders so that he can prove that he is not responsible for the violence. Thus, with Assad refusing to allow a team from the U.N. to come in and investigate the matter, it means that suspicion regarding the attack will continue to point the finger at Assad. In my view that is not very smart.
What are the alternatives? First of all I see no evidence of the people of Syria crying out for a fly free zone as was the case in Libya. The Libyan intervention was based upon the ability to disable the Gadhafi government forces, thus giving the people a breathing space. I maintain that of the two, Gadhafi was much worse than Assad because of the nature of the abuses against the Libyans.
Second, a major concern for me, about the Syrian situation happens to be the length of time it has taken to resolve the civil war. The longer the civil war has been allowed to ferment, the more like it has become that there will be a Muslim Brotherhood affiliation style of takeover. This is quite naturally an undesirable outcome. It can be argued that the dithering with regard to Syria has actually led to this outcome being the most likely eventuality. However, with affiliates of Al Qaeda involved in Syria, I do fear for the future.
The question is: Should the UN intervene? My answer to this question remains the same: NO. This is a civil war between Syrian tribes. As such international countries should keep out of that war and should not get directly involved. Giving weapons to the Opposition could have a disastrous result in the future.
At the same time non-intervention has some dangers attached, including the escalation of strife in Lebanon. The recent bombings in Lebanon are a direct result of the civil war in Syria. The players are exactly the same between some hardline Sunni Muslims and Hezbollah. My view is that we should let them kill each other.