Time is running out

Time is running out

Violence is increasing in neighboring Syria, and operations against separatist terrorists continue unabated in the rough Cudi Mountains of southeastern Turkey. The Arab Spring may perhaps move to Lebanon or down to the Gulf area once President Basher al-Assad is done away with somehow, and already discussion is underway among intellectuals, diplomats, and political analysts as to whether a “Kurdish Spring” might soon succeed or accompany the Arab political climate change.

A Kurdish Spring might not necessarily panic the separatism-obsessed Turks and the Turkish government, or perhaps they should fear it far less than the peculiar government of Iraq’s autonomous north. Naturally Turkey must be alert to such a possibility, because if such a political climate change blows in from some deep quarters of the West, sooner or later it will reach Turkey also.

A government cannot fail to take the measures the security climate in its country requires. But a state cannot act like a hammer that sees everyone as a potential nail-head needing hammering. The use of force may help to contain popular unrest, but at the end of the day, unless force is accompanied with civilian measures including a sincere political will to address the revolting public’s fundamental demands, neither the Mubaraks of Egypt, the Gadhafis of Libya, nor the al-Assads of Syria can sit on their soft couches in comfort for ever. Their falling from power under such circumstances is not a matter of “if,” but rather “when?” and “how bloody?”

In ten days time a gathering of representatives from some 60 countries and ten international organizations will be meeting in Istanbul on April 1 to decide what concerted action they might take to push for a less bloody and more rapid regime change in Syria. Although it appears to be something of a joke, because it will be convening on April Fools’ Day, the meeting will be a crucial one for the future of Syria and of course for al-Assad.

This week the United Nations Security Council finally managed to establish consensus on something regarding Syria. All of the council’s members endorsed the publication of a council non-binding statement strongly advising al-Assad to heed the six-point proposal made by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan or face the consequences the council would decide to be appropriate.

Annan’s plan calls for a ceasefire, specifically a “daily two-hour humanitarian pause,” to be established, as well as for both sides to engage in political dialogue and allow humanitarian aid agencies access to areas where citizens have been caught up in the increasingly militarized conflict. The plan also calls for those detained to be released, and for restrictions on the freedom of movement of foreign journalists to be removed.

After the Security Council’s endorsement of the Annan’s six-point plan, the April 1 meeting of the Friends of Syria in Istanbul has become all the more important. Its participants will obviously consider Syria’s response (and hopefully also that of the rebels) to the UN-endorsed plan for transformation to a resolution in Syria and decide what further steps needed to be taken.

Certainly if the Syrian crisis is to be addressed through methods excluding military intervention, the Annan plan, the council’s endorsement, and the April 1 meeting are promising developments, provided al-Assad sees that time is running out for him to leave this trauma behind with his head still on his shoulders. Otherwise, tomorrow may be very bleak!

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