Cameron of Arabia, Sarkozy of Damascus
"The West needs to lead and the international community needs to talk about what to do when the dam bursts in Syria," senior Arab diplomatic sources told British media – a sign that no peaceful solution is expected to what Russian FM Lavrov says is now a civil war in Syria.
The news emerged following the talks between British PM David Cameron and the Jordanian King, the first Arab leader to publicly call for Syrian President to step down.
London and Paris were behind a draft UN Security Council resolution, which would have condemned Assad for the bloody crackdown on the opposition in Syria. Russia and China said the proposal was one-sided and failed to mention increasingly deadly violence by the anti-Assad opposition, and vetoed the text.
Russia fears it is an overreaction that could pave the way for a military intervention.
“We suggest that in order to put the Arab League initiative in place all countries concerned with a peaceful outcome of developments in Syria should demand not only from the Syrian authorities, but also from the opposition that they stop their violence,” Sergey Lavrov stressed. “The ongoing attacks on government buildings in Syria look like a civil war.”
The opposition in Syria has now militarized, making them much easier to support and adding more weight to any international threats.
Recently the Syrian Free Army, a Sunni opposition paramilitary organization claiming 15,000 members and the main driving force behind the growing opposition movement, claimed to have attacked a Syrian Army military base in one of the bloodiest days of unrest to date.
The Syrian government blames extremist bandit groups armed with weapons smuggled in by foreign government agents of whipping up the bloodshed and derailing efforts to begin political reforms pledged by Assad.
The European Union has issued several rounds of sanctions against Damascus in a bid to force it stop its crackdown on the opposition. But this has done little to stop the bloodshed which has cost at least 3,500 lives.
Russia and China are still appealing for dialogue as the only way to end what they call two-way violence – they are desperate to avoid another Libya-style intervention.
But that chance may be fading with the wheels already in motion for a coordinated attack.
“The desire of the Western powers for regime change [in Syria] is clearly strong and we should learn the lessons of Libya, where thousands of civilians died of the NATO bombing,” believes Lindsay German from Stop the War coalition. “A NATO bombing or any other military intervention in Syria will have even more serious consequences because of the regional set-up and the whole question of Iran and the question of Israel.”
With Britain already primed, this could be the last-ditch attempt at conventional diplomacy.
“They are in a position that they have to take some action,” believes David Hartwell, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Jane’s. “They extended the deadline [for Assad] and [have] given another three days, perhaps trying to give Assad as much room as possible and give him opportunity to fulfill his promises.”
But the patience of Syria’s other neighbors and crucial regional brokers are now waning too, adding to the growing concern the rhetoric will soon bubble over as the Arab League has already suspended Syria’s membership.
Assad now has until Saturday to convince the Arab League he is halting crackdowns on protesters, while radical armed opposition grows against him, lest he face more isolation and sanctions.
At the moment the diplomatic offensive on Syria is verbal and no military activity has been mentioned. But a British/French-led offensive was key to the operation in Libya, where military intervention followed similar diplomatic choreography.