In The Media

NATO no-show in bloodied Syria: Kent

by Simon Kent (feat. Ferry de Kerckhove)

Toronto Sun
June 2, 2012

Exactly one year ago NATO air forces, led by Canadian Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard, were actively protecting rebels seeking to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi.

In the period June 2-3, 2011, 172 NATO combat sorties were flown over Libya and 63 targets engaged as part of Operation Unified Protector.

One vehicle depot, two ammunition depots, four SAM launchers, six armoured personnel carriers (APCs), one tank, two armored fighting vehicles, one command and control node and one radar were hit.

Canada provided a string of assets during the Libyan conflict including senior staff officers as well as air and sea components.

The Royal Canadian Air Force deployed seven (six front line, one reserve) CF-18 fighter jets, two CC-150 Polaris refueling airplanes, two CC-177 Globemaster III heavy transports, two CC-130J Super Hercules tactical transports and two CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft.

The Royal Canadian Navy deployed the Halifax-class frigates HMCS Charlottetown and HMCS Vancouver for interdiction and naval gunfire support.

NATO force like this combined with political pressure eventually enabled opponents of Ghaddafi to defeat a tyrant and gain their freedom.

Don’t expect to see it repeated in Syria anytime soon.

According to Ferry de Kerckhove, former Canadian Ambassador to Egypt and Fellow of the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI), Syria and Libya have both suffered under tyrannical regimes but only one focused political attention with a view to military intervention.

“There is not much similarity in the two other than people are dying at the hands of leaders who show no respect for international rule of law,” de Kerckhove said. “For a start, Libya was pretty much friendless by the time NATO intervened. Syria has two main backers in Russia and Iran that show no sign of backing off.

“So at the diplomatic level we are no closer to a UN vote authorizing force as long as it can be vetoed by Russia.

“On the ground it is different as well. In Syria the resistance to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad knows no specific geographic position. It is spread out, isolated and more easily crushed. In Libya whole towns and cities turned against Gaddafi, this made it much easier to cordon them and protect them from the air.”

So will there be a vote at the UN Security council authorising force?

“No. I think you will find in 12 months the Syrian leadership will still be there. It is sad, but that is the truth. Force is not a current option.”

French President Francois Hollande disagrees. He says the use of armed force could be possible in Syria, but it has to be carried out under UN auspices.

“An armed intervention is not excluded on the condition that it is carried out with respect to international law, meaning after deliberation by the United Nations Security Council,” Mr Hollande said in a television interview last Wednesday.

Hollande is pretty much alone — so far — on the international stage in calling for direct military intervention.

The U.S. and its allies have been working in the UN Security Council to win support for an escalating series of resolutions against Syria — but again not force. They want to keep imposing sanctions, issuing denunciations and demanding an end to bloodshed.

Barack Obama has declined urgings for the U.S. to take the lead because this is an election year and he likes to posture as the president who ends wars, not starts them.

So that’s about it. Plenty of talk, fine words and one stern press communiqué at a time from the increasingly helpless-looking UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan pushing his six-point peace plan.

Where’s the end game?

Ferry de Kerckhove says he would personally like to see Assad in front of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face his accusers.

“Maybe the international community can one day get him to the ICC with his henchmen and justice will be done. Until then I think sanctions have to be the way to go, hand-in-hand with long term diplomatic efforts. Look at the changes that have been wrought in Iran by sanctions and you will see some hope for the people of Syria.

“I just wish that comes sooner rather than later.”

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