Syrian quagmire

January 01, 2014 - 5:07:58 am
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the death toll in Syria’s civil war has risen to at least 130,433, and more than a third of them are said to be civilians on both sides of the conflict. This is an approximate figure. In a conflict as in Syria, where the entire country is engulfed by the revolution and multiple battles are fought simultaneously under various leaderships and without leaders, it’s difficult to arrive at an exact figure. By the same logic, the real figure would be much higher than what the human rights group has quoted. 

In any war, such a huge death toll would have shaken global conscience, but the release of these figures yesterday hardly evoked any outrage. Blood spilled in Syria, lives lost and lives uprooted are failing to move the world, because there are limits to the shocks even the world can take. That’s the tragedy of the Syrian revolution. The international community seems to have lost interest, and with no side showing signs of victory, both sides are locked in a devastating battle. Ordinary Syrians are caught in a limbo and a solution seems as elusive as a mirage. The conflict which began in March 2011 as peaceful protests against four decades of rule by President Bashar Al Assad’s family, has since turned into an armed insurgency whose sectarian dimensions have reverberated across the region and complicated all kinds of efforts to find a solution.

The Observatory put the number of women and children killed in the conflict so far at 11,709, and the death toll among rebels fighting the Assad government at 29,083. Deaths among the Syrian armed forces and fighters supporting Assad were at least 52,290, including 262 fighters from the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah and 286 from other non-Syrian Shia groups.

As the fighting rages, Bashar Al Assad is being urged to honour the promises his regime made to surrender its chemical weapons stockpile, as international experts are pointing to delays in removing some of the most lethal toxins from the country. According to reports, a Tuesday deadline for ridding Syria of hundreds of tons of liquid poisons would not be met due to stalled progress in transporting the chemicals across war-ravaged countryside to ships that will carry them out of the region. At the same time, overall effort to destroy the chemical arsenal is said to be on track.

Once Assad fulfills his promise on chemical weapons, he will gain an upper hand as the West will weaken its pressure on him. That will further push up the death toll. Whichever way one looks at the situation in Syria, it’s long, dark tunnel that lies ahead.•
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