Syrian revolutionaries request foreign intervention

A new coalition of Syrian revolutionary groups made a formal request for outside help Thursday, asking first for human rights monitors who could help deter attacks on civilians.

Mikhail Metzel/AP
Head of Syrian opposition delegation Human Rights defender and National Organization for Human Rights (NOHR) founder in Syria Dr. Ammar Qurabi, right, speaks to the media after a meeting with Mikhail Margelov, left, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Russia's upper parliament house, the Federation Council, in Moscow, Friday, Sept. 9. Members of Syrian opposition delegation Abduellah Almlhm is right and Mahmoud Al-Hamza is second right.

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Syrian revolutionaries made their first official request for foreign intervention Thursday, saying that the death toll had grown enough to ask for outside help despite their initial reluctance. However, the chances of their request being granted are slim – the US and Europe, who led the international community into Libya, have given no indication they want to stage another intervention.

Members of the Syrian Revolution General Commission, a new umbrella organization of nearly four dozen groups seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, said they hope to avoid being labeled traitors by asking first for human rights monitors rather than military intervention.

If the regime refuses to allow the monitors into the country, it will "open the door" for more direct intervention, such as no-fly zones, said spokesman Ahmad al-Khatib, according to Reuters.

However, the West has expressed little interest in implementing a no-fly zone, or any other military measures, for Syria. International action has so far been limited to diplomatic and economic moves, such as sanctions.

Syria is a much more strategically critical country for both the West and the Middle East than Muammar Qaddafi's Libya was. It has links to key players in the region and it has a larger population that is divided between various sectarian groups.

The Libya intervention both strained NATO members' military resources and raised the hackles of Russia, who did not block the operation in Libya but has since expressed regret that it didn't. It's unlikely Russia, which holds UN Security Council veto power, would once again permit a foreign intervention in an Arab uprising, let alone endorse it.

According to Chinese wire agency Xinhua, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Friday that Russia did not want a Libya repeat.

"The situation in Libya has changed," Medvedev told Euronews in an interview broadcast Friday. "Even so, we believe the mandate from Libya Resolution 1973 was exceeded."

The president said Russia definitely did not "want the same thing to happen in Syria."

Russia has even resisted a UN resolution that would impose sanctions on Mr. Assad, saying any action needed to be directed at both sides in the conflict, not just the government, according to a second Reuters report.

While much of the international community, including former ally Turkey, have given up hoping that Assad will implement reforms and sit down with the opposition to end the uprising peacefully, Russia is still pushing for negotiations.

"We are ready to support different approaches, but they must not be based on one-sided condemnations of the actions ... of the government and President Assad," [Russian President Dmitry] Medvedev said in the remarks, to Euronews television.

"They must send a firm signal to all conflicting sides that they need to sit down at the negotiations table, they need to agree and stop the bloodshed," he said.

Another critical source of support for the intervention in Libya is likely to be absent in Syria's case: the Arab League, The Christian Science Monitor reported last week. The NATO intervention was only given the go-ahead after a nod from the 22-member Arab League.

Although the Arab League has called for an end to the violence in Syria and several Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, have withdrawn their ambassadors from Damascus, analysts doubt that there will be Arab approval for a Western military intervention in Syria.

"There's no chance of the West getting militarily involved in Syria now. But it could be a possibility in the future if the situation worsens as we expect," a European diplomat in Damascus told the Monitor.

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