Illusory UN peace plan has failed to stop Syrian horror
The UN has made the classic error of trying to oversee a peace agreement that did not exist. It does not matter that the majority of Syrians may wish to seek a peaceful accommodation, the militants on one side and the diehard supporters of the old regime on the other want the annihilation of their opponents.
In the mayhem that has followed, the consequences for ordinary civilians are of little concern to either party.
The opposition is fragmented and may include outside militant Islamist groups. In the chaos that is unfolding, these groups are likely to increase.
The brutal civil war in Lebanon that destabilised the region for so long is a harbinger of what may come. Already neighbouring countries are struggling to deal with the refugee crisis.
The fall of Assad will have unpredictable national and regional consequences. While it would constitute a serious blow to Iran’s regional influence, it would also threaten the long-standing peaceful co-existence between Israel and Syria.
Assad’s regime is weaker now than ever before. Its brutal repression has lost it many of its former allies, most notably Turkey and the Palestinian militia Hamas. Nato powers bear their share of the blame for the UN impasse. Having sought a UN resolution to protect civilians in Libya, it soon turned to regime change. It is hardly surprising the Russians and Chinese are suspicious of western intentions.
Unfortunately, this means the UN has been unable to react to protect civilians and stem the tide of violence. Regional powers, in conjunction with the UN, stand the best chance of influencing the outcome of events. Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia bear a heavy responsibility for how events will unfold.
UN observers are at the mercy of both sides for their security and freedom of movement.
Amnesty International has called for robust mechanisms for monitoring and investigating the crimes being committed in Syria.
Assad and his cohorts need a reminder of what awaits those who flout international law. The 50-year sentence for war crimes handed down to Charles Taylor yesterday demonstrates that even former heads of state can be held to account.
Prof Ray Murphy is director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the school of law, NUI Galway. He has served as a military officer on UN peacekeeping missions in the Middle East