Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, frustrated with the lack of action by the UN Security Council on Syria, has compared the efforts of the world body to inaction in Bosnia during the 1990’s that led to several gruesome massacres by Serbs.
Turkey is increasingly entangled after intercepting a Syrian airliner carrying what it said were Russian-made munitions for the Syrian army, infuriating Moscow and Damascus. It has led calls for intervention, including no-fly zones enforced by foreign aircraft to stop deadly air raids by Assad’s forces.
But there is little chance of U.N. support for robust action. China insists any solution to Syria’s crisis must come from within while Russia has said many Syrians still support Assad. Western nations meanwhile are loath to commit to any military action that could touch off a regional sectarian war.
“The U.N. Security Council has not intervened in the human tragedy that has been going on in Syria for 20 months, despite all our efforts,” Erdogan told a conference in Istanbul attended by leaders including Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby. “There’s an attitude that encourages, gives the green light to Assad to kill tens or hundreds of people every day.”
Erdogan said a system which allowed one or two nations to block intervention in such a grave humanitarian crisis was inherently unjust, and that Syria would go down in history as a U.N. failure much like Bosnia in the 1990s.
“How sad is that the United Nations is as helpless today as it was 20 years ago when it watched the massacre of hundreds of thousands of people in the Balkans, Bosnia and Srebrenica,” Erdogan told the Istanbul conference.
The July 1995 massacre in Srebrenica was the worst on European soil since World War Two, in which Dutch U.N. peacekeepers abandoned what had been designated a U.N. safe haven to advancing Bosnian Serb forces, who then killed 8,000 Muslim men and boys and bulldozed their corpses into pits.
Turkish officials had expressed hope they might be able to persuade Moscow, which sold Syria $1 billion of arms last year, to soften its opposition at the Security Council and that if it succeeded, China would follow suit.
But relations between Ankara and Moscow sank to a new low on Wednesday after Turkey forced down a passenger jet flying from Moscow and publicly accused Russia of ferrying military equipment to Assad’s forces.
The longer the conflict rages, the more vicious it becomes. President Assad is now employing his air force liberally — and indiscriminately — to fight rebel forces, bombing neighborhoods in Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city.
There have been massacres by what is thought to be Assad’s forces — 500 slaughtered just last month in Daraya. But so far, none on the scale of the killings in Bosnia, nor can they compare to the Hama massacre in 1982 when Assad’s father Hafez killed up to 10,000 to put down an uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood.
But the same paralysis that gripped the international community in the Balkans then is apparent today. Paul Ryan tried to make an issue of President Obama’s lack of action in Syria during the debate on Thursday night, but in truth, there is not much more the US can do that it isn’t already doing. We are not supplying arms to the rebels given the fact that we just don’t know who most of them are. There is a sizable contingent of terrorists and Islamists pouring into Syria to fight Assad and no one yet has suggested we give them any weapons they can use once Assad is gone.
We are working with Turkey along the Syrian border to funnel arms from the Gulf states to the rebels. And we are supplying the Free Syrian army with communications equipment to make them a more effective fighting force. There is some indication that we have special forces operators assisting in training the rebels and perhaps advising them on combat operations.
But short of putting troops on the ground, there’s not much more the US can do. The chances of a regional war are growing by the week and unless the international community can find a way to break the stalemate, the tragedy unfolding before our eyes could engulf the entire region.