During an interview with the Financial Times yesterday evening, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki stated that he is against military intervention in Syria, as well as all sort of military aid to the country. Conversely, members of the Syrian National Council (SNC) asserted that the Syrian people are in need of military support, whether from Arab countries or the international community.
SNC members came to Tunisia yesterday to attend the inaugural meeting of the Friends of Syria, which will take place today in Gammarth, a suburb north of Tunis. The Friends of Syria group was established by France and the United States as a response to Russia and China’s joint veto of the United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the escalation of violence in Syria.
The meeting will bring together foreign ministers and dignitaries from around the world, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoğlu, Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, and the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton.
Marzouki said that the Tunisia was supportive of the Syrian revolution, but envisaged a non-violent end to the conflict. “We support the Syrian revolution, because Tunisia is the birthplace of the Arab spring and it is our duty to express our support. However, we are against providing military support to Syria because this will not solve the problem. Rather it will make it even worse,” he added.
On the other hand, Redif Mustapha, head of the SNC’s Human Rights Committee, said that Syrians desperately need weaponry, whether from the Arab world or the international community. “Syrians are being killed every day. They need arms to defend themselves but not to attack. Syria needs support because crimes against humanity are being committed every day,” he stated.
International experts have also echoed the need to provide arms to Syria’s opposition.
“A peaceful solution is a fantasy – we are talking about a war. The opposition needs weapons and funding. We need to start talking about arming the opposition; until then the international community is not having a serious dialogue on this issue,” stated Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy.
Though Badran recognized the need for economic and diplomatic pressure to be brought to bear upon the regime in conjunction with the provision of humanitarian aid, he stated his conviction that military support will be essential in bringing an end to the violence and ensuring Syria’s democratic transition.
“A military component to the aid is imperative. The other forms of pressure and aid are needed as well, but without this component there is no mechanism to remove the Assad regime from power,” Badran stated.
The international community has been wary of arming, or even formally recognizing, the opposition, for fear of exacerbating a conflict that could potentially spread throughout the region. However, Jonathan Schanzer, the vice president of research from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies – an organization focusing on national security and foreign policy related issues in the United States - described the position of the international community as a catch-22, with action or inaction both inevitably leading to an undesirable outcome.
“Extending recognition to the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Council will not cause Assad to step down or draw back military action. It is more likely that he would ratchet up the conflict, recognizing that he has a greater need to quell these opposition groups. However, if no consensus is reached at this conference, then it sends a message to the Assad regime that it can continue to resort to violence without consequence. Either way, what we are looking at is an interim, albeit necessary, step that will inevitably lead to more conflict,” Schanzer concluded.