After Russia and China vetoed the Syria resolution in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Bashar Ja'afari , Syria's ambassador to the UN, asked if it made sense for a country (read regime) to step up its campaign against its own people on the eve of such a resolution. He explained further, deducing that this was proof that there indeed are militant terrorist groups in Syria who are committing those crimes.
But the track record of the Syrian regime's army and iron grip over the state raises serious questions of exactly how such a group would be able to effectively bombard the city of Homs with heavy artillery and tanks for so many days undetected — these are not suicide bombers. What everyone at the UNSC seems to agree on is that the death of civilians must stop; the latest UN estimates place the death toll above 6,000. So here is the point: For the sake of thwarting the Syrian argument, it doesn't matter who's doing the killing. If it is indeed the Syrian government then they've lost their legitimacy. And if it is the armed terrorists groups that can shell Homs and more recently Daraa days on end with the Syrian regime helpless, then the latter's legitimacy has been lost on the grounds that it can no longer maintain order, let alone protect its own people.
In short, whether the regime and its apologists (old Arab leftists, resistance axis states, Hezbollah, Russia, China etc) admit to its actually committing those crimes against its own citizens or not is irrelevant as long as they do admit that such atrocities are taking place.
The world's responsibility is to stop the massacre of civilians. If the Syrian regime wants to accuse a vague collective of anti-Baath, Muslim Brotherhood and pro-Israel terrorists so be it. But it should also know that a regime that cannot stop such a group, evidently with tanks and heavy artillery, for 11 months has already declared itself unable to maintain order, let alone lead. This is no longer about a blood detesting ophthalmologist-turned-president by process of accidental fraternal elimination. This is about kids with blown jaws but do not die for another day, this is about children dying in their parents' funerals and others skinned and beheaded. Syria is, both, the most politically entrenched and the most morally demanding conflict we are yet to deal with since the advent of the Arab Spring. The question now is how do you deal with an exponentially rising death toll — the death toll in December was 5,000.
Complicating matters further, the opposition groups are not completely united. There is Burhan Galioun's Syrian National Council (SNC), Hussain Abdul Azim's Syrian National Coordination Committee (NCC), the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Free Officer Corps, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafists, independent Islamists and youth activists divided into several national coalitions. There is still the question of the Alawites themselves, as well as the Shiite and Christian minorities and Kurdish interests. Should the Syrians miraculously succeed in toppling the regime on their own, regional and international players will do to Syria what its Baathist regime, among others, did to Lebanon. Left to their own devices, a civil war among the Syrians seems inevitable.
Of course there are still some diplomatic tactics that must play out; the GCC has expelled Syrian ambassadors last week. There is still the recognition of the SNC by the international community, uniting the opposition around it and the Friends of Syria pressure clique. Alas, the comments of Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, after his visit to Syria that Bashar Al Assad had promised him to end bloodshed while the shelling of Daraa and Homs continued paves the way for military and political intervention.
And so because of all the above, I propose a long-term mission of military and political intervention. It would begin with a military intervention to topple the regime, roughly along the lines of what a fellow writer recently wrote in a UAE newspaper about "Turkish-Jordanian-GCC [ground troops], fighting the regime on both northern and southern fronts, with US and Nato air and intelligence ground support." In addition, I suggest simultaneously offering a general amnesty with a deadline for the regime's military and civilian apparatus in return for immediate defection, which would likely hasten the implosion of the regime.
It would then require a peace-keeping mission that would also be embedded with observers to ensure Syrian people's own transition to a representative democracy (read guarantees about rights of minorities) backed by a sustainable economy. Arming the FSA or any other opposition group at this point could lead to the emergence of post-Al Assad militias; we've seen glimpses of this in Libya. After Al Assad is toppled this would lead to retributions that would eventually turn into a sectarian war, one that is sure to have a regional fall out; think Lebanon, Israel, Iran, Turkey and Jordan just to name a few. This is a chance for Syria's stakeholders to commit to removing it from its largely metaphorically resistance axis and reorienting it with its neighbourhood. It is also one of those rare cases where the long-term responsibility of Syria's neighbours' to its crisis is driven by idealism and realism.
Mishaal Al Gergawi is an Emirati current affairs commentator. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/algergawi