IN OTHER NEWS… SYRIA
While Australia has been focused on domestic affairs – Alan Jones, Peter Slipper – ugly civil war in Syria has been threatening to go regional as the bloodletting inside the country has been worsening.
The Syrian opposition puts the number of those killed at 31,000 since the conflict began in March 2011 when the regime of President Bashar al-Assad crushed pro-reform protests. Out of a population of 22 million, more than 2 and a half million have lost their homes, 300,000 have fled to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
Yet the UN is deadlocked and impotent. NATO is wary.
Our own Foreign Minister Bob Carr has offered the view that a major military defection or Assad’s assassination seems like obvious preconditions for “movement” towards peace.
Callous though speculation about Assad’s assassination may sound, a glance at the price being paid for his determination to cling to power eases the guilt.
Both sides are armed and frustrated. The opposition can’t fathom why the international community tolerates three vetoes exercised in the UN Security Council by China and Russia defeating western backed sanctions, in the face of the killings and human rights abuses.
The Assad regime responds that Syria’s business is no-one else’s. It accuses the United States, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey of “blatant interference in the domestic affairs of Syria, and the unity of its people and its sovereignty”. Their crime according to President Assad is “supporting terrorists” with arms, money and foreign fighters. The “terrorists” are anyone opposed to his rule.
Troops on the Turkish border.
But if the brutal warfare inside Syria hasn’t been enough to focus the collective international conscience, the escalating tensions between Syria and Turkey and the possibility of a civil war turning into regional conflict, most certainly has.
Over the past week, the stakes have been raised.
The Turkish Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan is warning the two nations are “not far from war”.
There are an estimated 100,000 Syrian refugees in camps on the Turkey-Syria border, and some 40,000 more secreted in private homes across Turkey. Once a close ally of President Assad, Turkey is also offering refuge to Syrian rebel army leaders.
So, when a Syrian mortar barrage recently rained down on a small Turkish border town killing 5 people, including a mother and her three children, Turkey retaliated, killing dozens of Syrian soldiers. There’s been tit-for-tat retaliatory fire for days since, with the death toll mounting.
Syria’s main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, thinks President Assad wants to turn a civil war into a regional war. It thinks the President wants to force international scrutiny away from the urban battles inside Syria and on to Syria’s borders.
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