Syria: Back up Words with Action
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.
This article was published by The New York Times on April 1, 2012. Read it here.