The bloodbath in Syria continues unabated. The manner in which it is being addressed by the nations of the world has something instructive to say to us Israelis who believe – rightly or not – that wholesale deaths in the Syrian style are what might await us, Heaven forbid, if our collective guard were to be let down from keeping an array of vicious enemies at bay.
Unabated might not actually be the best way to describe the Syrian slaughter, since the lust for blood on both (all?) sides is absolutely no less intense than it was when the chaos and barbarism erupted nearly two years ago.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which reports on such matters from London puts out rather laconic-sounding updates via its Facebook page every few days. On Monday, it gave us Sunday’s numbers:
Preliminary Death toll for Sunday 9/12/2012: About 60 Syrians killed so far, today. The dead include: 24 unarmed civilians, 13 rebel fighters, 5 unidentified fighters, and not less than 10 regime forces. 24 unarmed civilians.
Earlier this week, its tally for killings to date stood at something over 40,000.
But all is not lost. The friends of Syria – or to be more precise about this, the Friends of Syria, including the United States once Secretary of State Hilary Clinton recovers from an illness – are meeting this Wednesday in Morocco “to find ways of backing the political transition in the event of President Al-Assad’s fall, and mobilising vital humanitarian aid as winter sets in” [source].
What might we expect to come out of their discussions? The track record until now is depressing. The customary mechanisms for resolving catastrophic wars like the one that has Syria in its grip have been a complete failure. The Russian and Chinese governments have vetoed three separate UN Security Council resolutions that sought to get the al-Assad regime in Damascus to reduce the violence of the war it is waging against other Syrian groups. The Russians see themselves as Very Good Friends of Syria and prove it by accusing [source] the US and other states of wanting to achieve the deplorable goal of destabilizing Syria’s family-owned government.
An LA Times article this week says Moscow:
“will not seek the ouster of Assad, as international negotiators again fail to reach a breakthrough on the crisis in Syria… Russia downplayed White House fears that a desperate Assad could deploy chemical weapons and said the greatest danger was that part of Syria’s chemical arsenal could fall into the hands of rebels. Both U.S. and Israeli officials have also voiced concern that chemical armaments could end up in the hands of insurgents, who have overrun a number of military bases. Syria’s fragmented rebel legions includes hard-core Islamist brigades hostile to the West and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”
So the killing continues. But it appears we may be heading for some moments of truth.
This past Sunday, Israel’s man in Washington used the term “game changer” when referring [see this Wall Street Journal article] to reports that the Syrians are handing parts of their huge chemical warfare arsenal off to Hezbollah and other militant groups. Being a diplomat, he chose diplomatic language. But when Ambassador Michael Oren said he could not confirm reports that Bashar al-Assad’s forces had prepared sarin gas for use, he was understood by most people as saying that the government of Israel is indeed able to confirm those reports. (And an article today called “Israeli spies track Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapon stocks” based on a report in the Times of London gives that some credence).
“We are watching the situation very carefully,” Oren said. “Syria has a very varied, deep chemical weapons program. It is geographically dispersed as well. Were those weapons to pass in to the wrong hands, Hezbollah’s hands, for example, that would be a game changer for us… Can you imagine Hezbollah, with its 70,000 rockets, could get its hands on chemical weapons? That could kill thousands of people.”
The Americans use different terminology. President Obama said four days ago that if the al-Assad regime used chemical weapons against their own people (as they did in 1982) that would amount to the crossing of “a red line.” It’s the same term he used many thousands of dead Syrians ago, back in August ["Obama warns Syria not to cross 'red line''].