When Bashar al-Assad agreed to Kofi Annan’s six-point plan, he pledged to enter a ceasefire agreement. Yet clashes continue daily, with reinvigorated shelling of neighborhoods in Hama this week.
Thus, these statements from international bodies absolutely must be
accompanied by action. Otherwise, despite their good intentions, they
simply give cover to Assad while he continues his massacre. To help
accelerate the tipping point in this crisis, the U.S. must lead from the
front rather than behind. It should vigorously engage the Friends of Syria,
whom are meeting on April 1 in Istanbul, to form a cohesive vision
beyond humanitarian aid. These steps should include concrete steps for
taking actions against the Assad regime.
The U.S. and the Friends of Syria should work with the government of
Turkey to immediately establish safe zones, a possibility Prime Minister
Tayyip Erdogan has been considering.
If the U.S. is reticent to act in a way that is seen as imposing and
unilateral, then it could at least support and encourage the initiatives
put forth by the Friends of Syria.
If the Friends of Syria come to a decision this weekend, it could
provide cover for the U.S. and the entire international movement of
those opposed to Assad to act more decisively. Subsequently, this
renewed international pressure could push the Turkish government to
implement safe zones and areas of protection inside Syria along the
border with Turkey.
Revolutionaries including the Free Syria Army
have called repeatedly for the establishment of such safe zones. But if
this measure were to finally succeed, it would hearten the Free Syria
Army, help draw more defections from Assad’s forces, and persuade those
still on the fence that there is indeed international consensus in favor
of a Syria that respects human rights.
Radwan Ziadeh is the spokesperson for the Syrian National Council, and a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.
This article was published by The New York Times on April 1, 2012. Read it here.