This past Tuesday, April 10, as the ceasefire arranged by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan supposedly commenced, Syrian rebels posted a short video on the Internet that they claimed showed mortar shells fired by forces loyal to dictator Bashir Assad striking the city of Homs. I watched part of the herky-jerky clip. Near the end, I heard someone, likely the cameraman, appealing to God.
Meanwhile, the Assad regime claimed it complied with Annan's agreement by withdrawing forces from urban areas as required, and would fully end hostilities later this week.
The Homs video, provided by the rebel Syrian Media Council, might show combat prior to Tuesday, and thus shade the truth. However, during the 14 months of struggle, the rebels have established a track record for reasonable accuracy, in contrast to the dictatorship's trail of lies.
Unsurprisingly, as Tuesday progressed, it appeared the Assad regime observed ceasefire conditions in areas where it deemed a ceasefire useful, but ignored Annan's deal in neighborhood killing fields where it decided mortar shells and tank guns served the dictatorship's long-term goal of survival.
The Syrian National Council, an umbrella group trying to coordinate the fractured rebel movement, said it would not accept a partial ceasefire. A French Foreign Ministry spokesman called the Syrian government's claim that it was implementing Annan's plan a blatant lie "indicative of a feeling of impunity against which the international community absolutely has to react to."
"React," he said. "Absolutely," said he.
In August 2011, the Arab League reacted. The league condemned the Assad regime's violence. That same month, U.S. President Barack Obama said, "For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President (Bashir) Assad to step aside." In September, Arab League General Secretary Nabil Elaraby met with Assad and reported that he "showed me a series of measures taken by the Syrian government that focused on national dialogue."
In September 2011, the Syrian civilian death was around 3,000.
On January 31, Elaraby appeared at the U.N. to continue to react. He assured the Security Council that the Arab League (to quote U.N. minutes) "was not calling for military intervention or regime change -- the latter being a matter for the Syrian people to decide -- but it was advocating "concrete economic pressure so that the Syrian regime might realize that it is imperative to meet the demands of its people."
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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