A NEGOTIATED settlement to the Syrian crisis seems unlikely, especially because both President Bashar Al Assad and the mainstream opposition have rejected talks. Since the uprising began in March last, China and Russia have blocked all attempts by the other UN Security Council members to have a resolution passed against the Syrian regime. On Sunday, Russia again opposed the ‘existing’ text of the resolution, as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the UN must act to end Mr Assad’s “violent and brutal attacks” on the demonstrators. The situation has now become grimmer: the Arab League has suspended the activities of its observer mission, 80 people were killed on Sunday alone, and the Assad regime seems in no mood to end the crackdown which, according to reports, has so far led to 5,500 deaths.
The Syrian National Council and the Syrian National Coordinating Committee for Democratic Change have both rejected talks.
While the former said President Assad’s resignation was a precondition for any negotiated transition to democracy, the latter asserted that talks were “inconceivable” because of “growing violence and killings”. Mr Assad has also rejected the Arab League plan, which calls upon him to hand over power to his deputy. This marks the Syrian strongman’s total regional and international isolation. It remains to be seen whether Moscow or Beijing will veto a new West-moved resolution. But even if the UNSC does manage to pass a strong resolution slapping sanctions on Syria, it is unlikely to lead to a regime change in Damascus. Apparently, Mr Assad still commands the loyalty of a majority of the armed forces, as indicated by the execution last week of Col Hussein Harmush, who defected to the protesters’ side and founded the rebel group. A UNSC resolution on paper will have little effect on the Baathist regime, no matter how strong the sanctions. The kind of defections that took place in the Libyan armed forces is not yet visible in Syria, and that only means that, barring some unexpected development, the Syrian people will continue to suffer at the hands of a regime they never voted to power.