Kinsman: How should Canada respond to the rising violence in Syria?

By: /
February 27, 2012
Jeremy Kinsman
Former ambassador to the European Union and high commissioner to Britain

Canada can’t in practical terms do anything of consequence by itself. The battle is for the Syrians to win. But the need for regional and multilateral pressure on the regime is fundamental. Libya’s inaugural R2P humanitarian intervention cannot be a precedent for Syria because China and Russia won’t give it a mandate (believing they were “naive” on Libya); and in any event, the military issues are a serious order of magnitude more complicated. Assad’s survival thus far illustrates the cruel potentcy of a dictator’s brute force when he wishes and is able to use it full-strength. The Syrian opposition (as opposed to the Greens in Iran in 2009) have mobilized armed resistance and it is now a civil war. But Assad will go down; the issue is how many people have yet to die beforehand. What emerges afterward is up to the Syrians, but the opposition needs help from outside now to obtain the kind of coherence that will make consolidation afterward more convincing. Multilateral diplomacy is of the essence now to generate: tighter sanctions to increase the pressure; negotiations on all channels to find an exit strategy; possibly humanitarian corridors or enclaves; patient effort to engage the Russian and Chinese leadership, probably more productive after Putin’s likely re-election March 4. And turn off the bellicose and uninformed rhetoric about Iran which makes them up their support for Assad which reinforces his regime’s delusion its survival is an option.