Free Syrian Army volunteer beside a captured APC
With the deadline passed for Syrian forces to withdraw its military presence from Homs, President Assad shows no signs whatsoever of letting up the genocidal campaign against opposition forces. With news that the violence has spilled over into Turkey and possibly Lebanon what are we doing to stop it? Nothing.
The UN have failed to stand up to Russia and China's abhorrent disregard for human life, having blocked an earlier resolution condemning the massacres, and now it seems that Kofi Annan's ceasefire plan has fallen to pieces. So what will happen?
It seems unlikely that NATO will enact a similar operation as the one undertook in Libya, primarily as it is a logistical nightmare. Assad'd forces are mostly ground based, hunkered down in suburban areas and in close proximity to residential and commercial centres. To enact a no-fly zone and target Syrian tanks and ground units would definitely result in massive civilian collateral and an eventual resentment of western intervention.
Putting troops on the ground is also a no-no as Foreign Secretay William Hague has said time and time again that British infantry would not be deployed on the ground. Whilst I agree we need to do something to halt the genocide, the fallout from British troops coming home in coffins could jeopardise the coalition and result in a backlash against the government. Besides, would Cameron risk deploying our already watered down Royal Navy to the Gulf or the Mediterranean and risk weakening the defences in the Falklands? I doubt it.
Victims of Assad's genocide
With the violence having encroached upon Turkish soil (Turkey are already harboring 17,000 Syrian refugees and counting) are they likely to go it alone and intervene? That might very well be the case. Turkey have violated the sovereignty of Iraq previously in 2008 to pursue the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) after a string of confrontations. The PKK are also active in northern Syria, and it could work in the West's favour to allow Turkey to use a similar pretext to cross the border into Syria, however it would be an illegal invasion all the same. Turkey would face the wrath of Iran and could risk igniting social tensions in its own territory if it were to go to war with the Syrian regime.
Turkey shares an 822km border with Syria
The Turkish government woul need to have significant pretext to invoke certain NATO articles (Such as the USA in the wake of 9/11) to ask its Western military partners for assistance. But Obama and the toothless NATO leaders have already ruled out military intervention on their part (possibly in an effort to prevent tensions escalating with Iran) which leaves us with two clear outcomes:
1. Assad's forces will exterminate the 'opposition' and we will play witness to a genocide in 2012.
2. Ramp up sanctions and hope to God that China and Russia back them.
Syria will no doubt be looking to Russia to play the intermediary in any peacekeeping mission or treaty, however we have yet to look at the position of the Arab League.
With Syria having already been expelled as an AL member in November 2011, the League could potentially deploy peace keepers into Syria and force an end to the violence, but again this looks unlikely. With Saudi Arabia and Qatar keen to see an end to the violence, (even rumoured to be arming rebel groups) they are also anxious to prevent any intervention on their part being seen a a green light to Assad to stay in power whilst they clean up his mess.
Neutered: The UN Security Council
With the deadline since passed, we are witnessing a moment of truth for Stria and the real power of the international community to adhere to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine in the face of a televised genocide. We let it happen in Rwanda and Sudan, but we stepped in when it came to Bosnia an Libya. Why the difference in approach? Life is life, and if we don't do something then we may as well tear up the declarations upon which the UN was founded and hang our heads in shame.