Inside Syria
Is Syria descending into civil war?
As the crisis enters a new, more violent phase, we ask if there is still room for a political solution.
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2012 11:15

The past few days have seen a significant rise in violence on the streets of Syria. Activists say around 120 people died on Thursday and Friday alone.

"The longer this period of non-state will continue, the longer ... the non-state violence, maybe Salafist, maybe ... al-Qaeda will emerge in Syria because they are looking for a new safe haven after Iraq.
So Russia would be directly shooting itself in the feet if they just play on time. They know that even the Iranians are no more negotiating any real future for Bashar al-Assad.

- Samir al-Taqi, a former advisor to Bashar al-Assad

Before suspending their observer mission in Syria on Saturday, the Arab League warned of the significant escalation of violence over the last three days.
Calls within the opposition for all-out armed resistance are growing louder. The slogan for Friday's protests was "The right to self-defence".

And while the UN and Arab League debate solutions to the crisis, many in the Syrian opposition seem to have already made their decision: they are ready to fight the battle.

But this decision does not have the support of all Syrian opposition groups. Some fear that taking up arms would only give the government an excuse to hit harder.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council is considering a draft resolution which calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
But that has already been stymied by Russia, which is opposed to regime change in Syria.

"We are afraid that the Libyan scenario will repeat itself in Syria. And I know that not only Russia, but also China is very much opposed to a violent government change in Syria."

- Dimitri Babich, a political analyst

With all the signs indicating that Syria is indeed sliding towards civil war, what is the international community doing? Why does Russia remain opposed to regime change? And can there still be a political solution?

To discuss these issues we are joined by our guests: Samir al-Taqi, the head of the Orient research centre and a prominent Syrian academic who formerly advised Bashar al-Assad, but who has now parted ways with the regime; David Mack, a former US deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs; and Dimitri Babich, a political analyst for the Russia Profile Magazine.

Gerard Araud, the French ambassador to the UN, has called for an immediate international action to end the violence in Syria. He said:

"More than 5,500 people have been killed. The country [Syria] is sinking into civil war. We are desperately looking for a political solution. And unfortunately or fortunately, again, there is no alternative."

UN resolution against Syria facts:

  • European and Arab states draft a UN resolution against Syria
  • The draft resolution calls for President al-Assad to transfer power to a deputy
  • The UN draft resolution supports an Arab League plan for new elections
  • Russia says the resolution should not contain the threat of sanctions
  • China and Russia vetoed a draft resolution against Syria in October
  • The UN is unable to update its estimate of the death toll inside Syria because of the situation on the ground
  • The last UN estimate says more than 5,400 people were killed since the protests began
  • Activists say at least 60 people were killed on Friday, January 27
  • Syrian activists call for the 'right to self-defence' and support the Free Syrian Army 
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