After “the Friday of the no-fly zone”, Alex Hern assesses the possibility of external help for the Syrian protesters.
The protests in Syria every Friday continue unabated, but this week there was a specific aim being pursued – over and above the expulsion of Bashar al-Assad. Dubbed “the Friday of the no-fly zone”, their message was clear; see, for example, these protesters, holding a banner saying “We need air block”.
Mousab Azzawi, of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, appeared on BBC Radio Five on Friday night to elaborate these demands.
“If you look at the history of the Arab Spring, the people in Libya were inspired by the people in Tunisia, by the success of their revolution, and in Egypt as well, and the people now in Syria, they look to Libya where the international community could step in in two weeks to impose no-fly zone and protect the civilians.
“Now they raise the question very loudly: “Why are there double standards?”
“We know that the Syrian situation is “too complicated”, but now we’re giving you a very real and transparent message, we are calling the international community to repeat the scenario which has been done in Libya in the past.”
Unfortunately, these demands seem unlikely to be met; as the Guardian reports:
Asked if there was a possibility Nato would now spearhead a no-fly zone in Syria, Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen responded: “It’s totally ruled out. We have no intention whatsoever to intervene in Syria.“
Some feel hope may lie with the Arab League, who have prepared a plan for peace between Assad and the demonstrators. Although little is known about the plan, it appears to include a demand to remove tanks from the streets of Syria, and to renew talks between the government and the opposition.
Sadly, this appears to be a slightly lost cause.
Speaking to the Telegraph about the Syrian National Council, the umbrella movement which represents the main opposition, Assad said:
“I wouldn’t waste my time talking about them. I don’t know them. It’s better to investigate whether they really represent Syrians.”
The opposition seems no more eager to talk, with Azzawi saying:
“Syria is seen as a forefront of Iran in the region, and the powers in the international community are a bit reluctant for confrontation with Iran. They are looking for compromises. If you look at that from the wider perspective there is a key player here: The local people in Syria. The demonstrators are not willing to have or to accept any compromises.
“So the international community should take this into account and take the right action which should not be too late because the whole region may be drift into a civil war.”
This fear of civil war was repeated by Professor Michael Clarke on the Today show this morning; he said:
“I think that what we’re heading for is a civil war in Syria. There’s already a Free Syrian Army formed in Turkey, which is having some effect, and there’s evidence that this has gone beyond a popular uprising, or is about to; I think Assad crossed a rubicon when he started to turn the Army out in several places against the people. There’s no way back once you do that.”
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• A Syrian civil war is becoming ever more likely – Alex Hern, October 27th 2011
• Syrian government uses hospitals against protesters – Alex Hern, October 25th 2011
• Libya and Syria: The costs of war – Dominic Browne, June 14th 2011
• Syria, where innocence is no defence – Dominic Browne, June 1st 2011
• Syria: Four reasons why Bashar al-Assad will probably survive – Shashank Joshi, May 11th 2011