The unspoken truth about Syria has finally been uttered. The head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Syria, Hervé Ladsous, has admitted politely that the country has slipped into civil war. His perception was guided by the recent massacres — in Houla in late May and in Al-Kubeir early this month — both confirming the UN’s worst fears about children being used as human shields by the warring parties. Mr Ladsous believes that there has been a fundamental change in the nature of violence in Syria. But even without this change, it is unlikely that Syria could have avoided descending into chaos. With the international community caught in an impasse of differing opinions and a regime hell-bent on making the most of this stalemate, Syrians have been condemned to a fate that is not of their making. At the onset of the Arab Spring, they had, like most other people living under autocratic regimes in the region, demanded certain political freedoms and reforms. While nations such as Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt freely experimented with democracy, foreign intervention guided the change in Libya and Yemen. Unfortunately for Syria, the failure of the foreign powers to arrive at a consensus on the degree and the need for intervention has robbed the people of their ownership over change. They are either driven by fear into the arms of the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad or by the promise of security into the fold of equally violent groupings. Both the warring sides have their foreign backers with their own interests to protect. While Russia, China and Iran defend their interests through their defence of Syria’s unpopular government, the Arab League, headed by powerful Sunni states and their more powerful sympathizers such as the United States of America, hope for a political change that will further their strategic interests.
The reason behind Syria’s swift descent into mayhem is the spike in this proxy fight that has followed the al-Assad regime’s desperate bid to reclaim lost territory. The unimaginable brutality unleashed has even got Russia rethinking its game-plan in Syria. With the Annan plan turning out to be a complete dud, Russia is planning to seize the initiative in Syria. It has proposed a meet that might end in a replacement of Mr al-Assad. Since the international powers have nothing better to latch on to, they could follow Russia to see where things lead.