Syrian President Bashar Al Assad Image Credit: AP

Clearly a great human tragedy is unfolding before our eyes in Syria. As we follow the daily carnage and massacres, we have become numb and helpless in preventing the atrocities in Syria today. The frustration is growing. After 15 months of a brutal crackdown to crush a popular uprising that started peacefully, and after more than 13,000 dead and tens of thousands injured, missing and detained, things are deteriorating rapidly, with dire consequences for the region.

Clearly there doesn’t seem to be any easy solution — or scope for military intervention — at this point in the country. Admittedly, Syria is not Libya or Yemen. It is much more complex and a tougher nut to crack. There is lack of Arab and international unanimity, the opposition is fragmented and there is no safe zone like Benghazi. Damascus and Aleppo have still not fully joined the revolution. Moreover, the regime is more entrenched and relies on sectarian and divisive elements in society, with clear support and backing from Iran, China and Russia. These countries say their position is “a matter of principle” to guard against instability, not to support President Bashar Al Assad. Russia has indicated lately that it would accept a change of leadership in Syria provided it represents the will of all Syrians and is not imposed from outside.

At the UN, a resurgent Russia along with its ally China have vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions condemning the Syrian regime’s crackdown on the opposition and demonstrators. It is a pity that human tragedies are allowed to unfold as a result of jockeying for power and the cold war mentality. Russia’s dream is to be a mover and shaker in the region, propping up its ally, who kills his own people using Russian weapons and support. It is unfortunate that Russia and China are entertaining such a stance to show they matter and can influence events in the region and play hard ball.

Everyone needs to stop dancing with the dictators. That includes those Arab countries that continue to sit on the fence and the international community that is still in a state of denial. There is a naïve belief in Kofi Annan’s defunct plan. Even Annan seems at a loss, warning of a civil war that will have regional ramifications. Annan, who sees his six-point plan going nowhere, and laments the lack of implementation of his plan, argued that “Everyone is looking for a solution; some say the plan may be dead. Is the problem the plan or its implementation? If it’s implementation, how do we get action on that?” But Annan the diplomat failed to point the finger at the culprit — the Syrian regime and its cronies and thugs who are rendering his plan dysfunctional.

Now the talk is about tinkering with the “dead plan”, forming a contact group with countries that could exert leverage on Syria — Iran and Russia.

What is so tragic is how the situation in Syria before the eyes of everyone, including the UN observers, is spiralling out of control. Syrians, Arabs and the world community used to count and keep daily tally of those who were shot and killed and the numbers kept going up. Now with the use of heavy weapons, artillery, missiles, even helicopter gun-ships in villages and towns, we are counting along with the UN mission in Syria the number of massacres perpetrated by a regime. It is killing, butchering and burning children, women and men in their homes. Two gruesome massacres took place over the

past few weeks, wherein about 200 innocent civilians were butchered, killed and maimed in mainly Sunni villages of Al Houla near Homs and Al Qubeir, both in central Syria. The UN spokesman gave a chilling account of the massacre: “Inside some of the houses, blood was visible across the walls and floors. Fire was still burning outside houses and there was a strong stench of burnt flesh.” The UN observers report seeing “armoured vehicle tracks around the village of Al Qubeir and homes that were damaged by rockets, grenades and various weapons. Terrorists, if we are to buy the Syrian regime’s far-fetched story, do not have armoured vehicles or missiles. The Syrian regime keeps unconvincingly, peddling a worn out claim, blaming “armed terrorists” for carrying out these massacres, Al Assad himself said even beasts won’t commit such crimes!

The international community is once again repeating the tragedies we witnessed in Rwanda and Bosnia, by succumbing to global rivalry and power politics. There is a need to translate this outrage against the escalating carnage and crimes against humanity into action. There is a need to document these atrocities, name the perpetrators and hold them accountable and issue warrants for their arrest by the International Criminal Court. The time has come to establish security zones, arm the Free Syrian Army, hit the regime with more crippling sanctions and work on bringing the Russians and Chinese on board to live up to their moral obligations and stop the bloodshed in Syria.

The international community and Arab countries have to speak in one voice for Al Assad to step down and come up with practical solution to save the Syrian people from a grim future, where many will wish to die before they are captured and tortured and bludgeoned to death. Syria today shames everyone. The inaction is unacceptable and staining the whole civilised world. Such atrocities should not be sanctioned or allowed to continue in the 21st century. Inaction is tantamount to sanctioning the killings by the butchers who are killing innocent children, women and men before our eyes. It is about time for the Arabs, Iranians, Russians, Chinese, the international community, UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Annan to stop dancing with the butchers and the dictators.

Professor Abdullah Al Shayji is the Chairman of the Political Science Department, Kuwait University. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/docshayji