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Opinion

As Syria crisis worsens, UN Security Council must act

Russia and China blocked the UN Security Council from acting on Syria in October. Now, Syria is showing signs of a civil war, and all roads point back to the security council. The council must demand a cease-fire, allow monitoring, and apply severe pressure on the regime.

By Salman Shaikh / December 15, 2011

A Syrian refugee boy, who fled the unrest in Syria, receives humanitarian aid in the Jordanian city of Al Ramtha, Dec. 15, 2011.

REUTERS/Majed Jaber

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Doha, Qatar

Oct. 4 marked a critical day when the UN Security Council failed to act on the worsening crisis in Syria. Russian and Chinese vetoes blocked a resolution that would have condemned the Assad regime’s actions and warned it of punitive measures if it did not reverse course.

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Since then, the crisis has entered a new, more militarized phase with signs of a civil war developing. Action by the Security Council is urgently needed.

More than 5,000 people have been killed, including more than 300 children, since the first protests against the regime of Bashir al-Assad began nearly a year ago. Thousands more have been injured and detained.

Clashes between regime forces and the opposition Free Syrian Army have become more regular and made the situation inside the country more complex. The Arab League’s recent failure to persuade the Assad government to end violence and enact reforms has shown that there is no alternative to more concerted international action against Syria.

With the protection of protesters and other civilians a central concern of regional and international actors, all roads are again leading back to the UN Security Council. However, for the council to be effective it must, as in the case of Libya, show determination to enforce its recommendations, including taking measures to break down the regime’s support within Syria.

Recent developments have made decisive UN action more feasible. The Arab League’s unprecedented suspension and sanctions on Syria – itself a founding member of the organization – effectively lifted the Arab cover it had been providing Assad. The League’s actions have galvanized an Arab, regional (particularly Turkish), and Western coalition – similar to that assembled in the case of Libya – intent on pressuring and isolating the regime.

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