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27 Apr, 2011 06:10

From sanctions to a Libya-style showdown in Syria

From sanctions to a Libya-style showdown in Syria

France and Italy are urging the UN to put pressure on Syria to end its violent crackdown on anti-government protesters. Washington is also considering imposing sanctions, which is raising fears that Syria could be the next Libya.

According to human rights groups, at least 400 civilians have been killed in the last month of violence in Syria. And in the last few days alone since the lifting of the emergency law some 500 people have been arrested.As a form of punishment for this violent crackdown the White House is considering introducing new sanctions against the regime in Damascus. These sanctions would include a travel ban, an asset freeze, and prohibition against doing business in the US.And they hope European countries will follow the initiative, as members of the Syrian regime have more assets in Europe than they do in the United States.The UN Security Council debate over a draft statement that condemns the violence is another example of the increased diplomatic activity against Syria. That statement was introduced on Monday by four European members of the council – UK, France, Portugal, and Germany. It backs a call by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for an investigation into the killings, and it sets the stage for sanctions against the country.

Meanwhile, the Russian prime minister says he is alarmed by NATO's approach towards bombing Libya.Speaking at a news conference following Russian-Swedish talks, Putin said the coalition is quick to act no matter the cost.Putin said when he served in the KGB, the Soviet Union was waging a war in Afghanistan and everyone believed that “we were doing a very good thing having this war in Afghanistan” and thought little of how many peaceful civilians perished because of the missile attacks, no matter what reasons were behind them.“Sometimes I contemplate how easily decisions on using force are made today in international affairs, and it leaves me gobsmacked,” said Vladimir Putin.

“And that happens against the background of all the fuss around human rights and humanism which the modern civilized world seemingly practices. Don’t you see a significant contradiction here between theory, the words and deeds, and the practice of international affairs? And we should do our utmost to eliminate this imbalance” he concluded.

Are the chosen means appropriate?

And there is increasing concern being expressed by experts in the international community about the possibility of future intervention into Syria and the possible spark of reaction from Arab states. “In Washington and in Brussels, I guess, there are a lot of concerns about the fact that Syria, unlike Libya, is part of an alliance, and this alliance is very wide,” said Middle East analyst Walid Phares.“So if the international community or the UN, or the US, are going to apply to Syria measures other than economic, meaning a direct intervention or political tremendous pressures, what they may get in return is a reaction by the Iranian regime, by Hamas, by Hezbollah, and others.” Many countries are looking towards Ankara, the Turkish capital, as a possible intermediary between Syria and the international community, but it certainly is not clear whether some kind of eventual showdown can be averted. There are alarming parallels between Syria and Libya as arguments similar to those in the run-up to the military operation in Libya are once again being heard. Western countries are already saying that they “need to stop the slaughter”, which could later transform into “president Bashara needs to be stopped from killing his own people.”There has been a different tone coming out regarding the situation in Libya as at first Gaddafi was not a target and later became the main target of the coalition.RT contributor Ekaterina Zatuliveter says the coalition forces are seeking a regime change in Libya under a humanitarian guise. “When the new regime is established, the new leadership out of gratitude for the countries who saved them from Gaddafi would want to sign new oil agreements, and also will allow NATO to set up its military base on the territory of Libya,” she says. “And these are the double standards of this intervention. And I don’t understand why there is an international law, if anybody can interpret it in any way they want.”This is why concerns have been raised by the international community about double standards and the possibility of the Syrian scene being painted for the same kind of showdown that we saw in Libya.Ryan McCarl, a writer on military intervention, shared his opinion on whether the situation in Syria is following the same pattern as events in Libya.“A lot of people have been at pains to distinguish the two cases, to explain that whereas military intervention was supposed to be appropriate in the case of Libya, rather because Colonel Gaddafi’s military was weak or whatever reason, that it is not practical in Syria,” he said. “The real question is: are the means that we’ve chosen to pursue appropriate?”