Syrian regime fights on, but is running out of money

The Arab League called an emergency meeting today to debate next steps, amid reports that Syria is violating a UN cease-fire. Some advocate staying the course, as sanctions start to pinch.

Raad Al Fares/Shaam News Network/REUTERS
A girl takes part in a protest against Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Kafranbel, near Idlib April 25. The words on the girl's palms: "Freedom forever."

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The United Nations peace plan for Syria, created by special envoy Kofi Annan, appears to be coming apart amid reports of renewed fighting throughout the war-ravaged country.

The plan called for an end to violence, but opposition groups continue to report lethal harassment by government snipers and tank attacks. Meanwhile, a blast in the Syrian city of Hama reportedly left at least 69 people dead today.

Amid the ongoing violence, CNN reports that the Arab League called an emergency meeting in Cairo today to discuss the situation in Syria.

As the situation in Syria continues to drag on without any significant change, there is growing debate about whether to give the UN plan more time or to pursue other options.

In a testimony before Congress yesterday, Middle East expert Marc Lynch urged American lawmakers to give the UN peace plan a chance despite its apparent inability to bring stability thus far. Mr. Lynch said any potential military interventions were unlikely to bring about a quick fall of Bashar al-Assad’s regime and other “military half-measures,” such as arming opposition groups or creating safe zones, would risk spreading violence.

“It is far too soon to give up on a diplomatic process which has just begun. Rather than rush into a risky, costly, and potentially counter-productive military intervention, the United States should give the current plan time to work,” said Lynch in his testimony, which was posted on Foreign Policy's website. “It should continue to lead international efforts at the United Nations, promote the demilitarization of the conflict, continue to increase the pressure on the Assad regime, build on the efforts under way with the ‘Friends of Syria’ group, support the political development of the Syrian opposition, and prepare the ground for future accountability for war crimes.”

Patience is wearing thin among other international observers, however, with France potentially calling for a military intervention in little more than a week if peace efforts continue to stall, reports Agence France-Presse.

Alain Juppé, France’s minister of foreign affairs, has said that without a 300-strong observer mission in place by May 5, his nation’s leaders may begin communicating with other powers about invoking Chapter 7 of the UN Charter that allows for military enforcement.

“We cannot allow ourselves to be ignored by the regime in place which has adhered to none of the six points of the Kofi Annan [UN peace] plan. We'd have to move into a new phase,” said Mr. Juppé, according to Al Jazeera.

Many Syrians say they are increasingly disillusioned with the UN plan. In some instances they say that monitors have made the situation worse, because activists say the government waits for the monitors to leave an area and then attacks those who spoke to them.

“I'm very disappointed, and people here are disappointed. It will be too late. Maybe 1,000 or 2,000 will be dead by then,” said Mousab Hamadi, an activist in the city of Hama, according to the Los Angeles Times. “How can the world stand by and watch tens being killed every day?”

Meanwhile, there are signs that sanctions have taken a toll on the Assad regime, with a number of intelligence and financial analysts saying the Syrian government is running out of money, reports the Washington Post. The financial strain has put pressure on the government, but the Post reports that its not yet enough to stop the government’s military operations or erode the power of Syria’s political elite. 

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