Hard diplomacy with Syria

The latest massacre in Syria justifiably raised concern within the international community of human rights violations being committed during the rebellion - more than 100 civilians murdered. The civil war occurring within this fragile Middle East nation, which has already been horrific, has taken a turn for the worst. Eye witness reports of soldiers murdering children at gun-point range is an abomination - no matter what the circumstances - and simply unforgiveable. The United Nations needed to act weeks ago with real diplomacy, hard diplomacy if you will, to effect change and prevent further atrocities. Hard diplomacy is an aggressive campaign - not rhetoric and platitudes - but aggressive meetings, discussions and severe sanctions, while all the while keeping a military option on the table.

Fortunately, on Friday the UN Human Rights Council met in Geneva and formally began this process of hard diplomacy. A little late no doubt, but an incredibly important step in the right direction. The United States, Turkey and Qatar were leading the charge to salvage the failed efforts of Kofi Annan's cease fire. The draft resolution condemns the "wanton killing of civlians by shooting at close range..." and that a commission of inquiry "publicly identify those reponsibile for these atrocities and hold them to account."

It further demands the three-member commission to have "full and unfettered access" to conduct its work. Not unsurprsingly, China and Russia are resisiting the placing of tougher sanctions upon the Syrian regime. As a result of such resistance there are now many within the United States and outside calling for military intervention, declaring that diplomacy can never work - and any efforts to do so will be blocked by China and Russia.

The international community must refrain from seeking immediate military intervention. The normal reaction from any civilized nation should be to respond to oust a government that authorizes and engages in human rights atrocities. However, it is critical calmer minds prevail and diplomatic pressures are increased on President Basher-al-Assad to seek peaceful resolutions.

The Syrian situation is a tripwire - and one that the international community must be ever mindful of prior to engaging troops- because any actions could unintentionally inflame the region - Sunni/Shii conflict, Israel-Palestine, Iran-United States, etc.

Gen. Richard Meyers, former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, this week prudently cautioned the world of the power and might of the Syrian forces, which is not to say he was completely against an armed intervention, but simply to remind all nations that a military response would be a bloody operation. Essentially, Meyers was noting that military intervention to resolve this human rights crisis is significantly different than that of Libya. The Syrian crisis is an armed revolution against a powerful, entrenched army showing no signs of surrender. Thus, it would seem, let's exhaust all possible diplomatic options prior to engaging militarily.

The Human Rights Council, justifiably criticized for its ineffectiveness in the past, now has a rare opportunity to demonstrate its worth and need for the world community to observe. While working in Geneva, I hope the council is conscious of the hopes of many for their peaceful measures to succeed. Hard diplomacy is necessary to prevent further and more extensive bloodshed, on all sides.

Glenn Sulmasy is Homeland and National Security Law Fellow at the Center for National Policy and Chairman of the Humanities Department and a professor of law at the U. S. Coast Guard Academy. The views expressed herein are his own. You can follow him on twitter at @glennsulmasy


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