Humanitarian corridors in Syria? Two Senators say U.S. should arm Syrian rebels
Europe seeks to bring relief to the Syrian people by creating humanitarian corridors, a seemingly noble idea aimed at winning Russian and Chinese support in the UN Security Council. But some are calling the plan a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The call for supply routes bringing humanitarian aid to Syrian cities first surfaced last November, and is back on the table as of this week.
“The idea of humanitarian corridors that I previously proposed, which would allow NGOs to reach the zones where scandalous massacres are taking place, should be discussed at the Security Council,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Wednesday.
Paris suggested creating a safe passage for relief organizations, either with Syrian approval or under an international mandate – hence the need for UNSC approval.
Damascus is currently stretched thin on forces, and hardly has any to spare on guarding aid convoys. But allowing foreign troops on its territory is also not an option, as was shown in the recent refusal to allow entry to Arab League peacekeepers.
The Security Council could establish the corridors through a resolution, and mandate that they be guarded by some government or organization. But Russia and China, who both have veto power, said they will not allow passage of any resolution they see as unbalanced.
Both Russia and China oppose any UN resolution that could later be used by NATO as permission for military action, as happened in Libya. “Libya offers a negative case study. NATO abused the Security Council resolution about establishing a no-fly zone and directly provided firepower assistance to one side in the Libyan war,” said China’s biggest Communist newspaper, The People’s Daily.
Juppe’s plan so far has only received backing from the European parliament. Its President, Martin Schulz, said the body “wants to see humanitarian corridors to be put into place and shelters provided for the growing numbers of displaced people.”
Not everyone seems to be sold on the idea, however. NATO would be the first choice for guarding duty, but its Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated the alliance has “ no intention whatsoever to intervene in Syria.”He also reiterated that “a regional solution” should be found for the conflict.
This passes the ball to the Arab League, though Syria’s lack of trust in some League members like Qatar and Saudi Arabia could get in the way. Damascus suspects the two Sunni monarchies of fueling the unrest in Syria in a bid to oust the Shia Alawite minority from power, so Syrian acceptance of their troops on its soil is unlikely.
And Lebanon and Turkey, the two countries that could easily deliver aid into Syrian territory, aren’t in a hurry to do so. Turkish press recently reported that Ankara would prefer an aid corridor going through the Mediterranean Sea and supported by the British military base in Cyprus, rather than through Turkey’s southeastern territories.
Turkey’s reluctance to act directly against Syria is understandable. Joining the international choir calling on President Assad to step down and suggesting an internationally protected zone for the Syrian opposition on its territory is one thing. Invading its neighbor and facing possible military retaliation from Syria – and perhaps its close ally Iran as well – is a bit too risky, even for a NATO member. Especially if retribution may come indirectly – through support of Kurd separatists waging a guerrilla war on Turkish troops.
The senators, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both Republicans, laid out a series of diplomatic, humanitarian and military aid proposals that would put the United States squarely behind the effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. The senators, both of whom are on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that rebel fighters deserved to be armed and that helping them take on the Syrian government would aid Washington’s effort to weaken Iran.
Syria relies on Iran for financial and military support, and the governments in Damascus and Tehran have sectarian ties as well: Iran has strongly backed the Syrian Shiite minority and the offshoot Alawite sect that makes up Syria’s ruling class.
“I believe there are ways to get weapons to the opposition without direct United States involvement,” Mr. McCain said. “The Iranians and the Russians are providing Bashar Assad with weapons. People that are being massacred deserve to have the ability to defend themselves.”
“So I am not only not opposed,” he said, “but I am in favor of weapons being obtained by the opposition.”
mccain the warmonger..arm the rebls..but who are the rebels?..doesnt matter?..oh..ok..humanitarian corridors sounds like another name for NFZ’s eh?