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By Jonathan Whittall
What do the Syrian National Coalition, a foreign jihadi group, a Gulf state, and the Iranian and American governments all have in common? All are providing varying degrees of “humanitarian” aid to the side they support in the Syrian conflict, but none is able to curtail the immense suffering alone, and none is able to ensure that its aid reaches the most vulnerable first. This is not a simple war, and there are no simple aid solutions, but the status quo cannot be an option.
The abduction last Wednesday of 21 Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights, in Syria, has belatedly focused national attention on the risks that Filipino soldiers and police officers face when they serve in UN peacekeeping operations. The hostages’ release over the weekend—they were transported to Jordan, unharmed—was welcome news indeed. Their experience, however, should prompt a national discussion about the true costs involved when we send Filipinos into harm’s way.
By Gareth Evans
If we were hoping for peace in our time, 2012 did not deliver it. Conflict grew ever bloodier in Syria, continued to grind on in Afghanistan, and flared up periodically in West, Central and East Africa. There were multiple episodes of ethnic, sectarian, and politically motivated violence in Burma (Myanmar), South Asia, and around the Middle East. Tensions between China and its neighbors have escalated in the South China Sea, and between China and Japan in the East China Sea. Concerns about North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear programs remain unresolved.
IT IS with great sadness and foreboding that we watch the news from Syria. The civil war has already claimed over 44,000 lives, and even though it seems to be entering its final phases it looks set to consume many more. The latest developments are worrying, precisely because they show steady but incremental rebel advances; [...]
By Walden Bello
Almost 18 months after the onset of popular-democratic protests, the Syrian revolution increasingly resembles a bloody marathon with no clear finish line on the horizon. Unlike the “lightning” revolutions in North Africa, namely Tunisia and Egypt, which took only few weeks to overthrow Arab strongmen such as Mubarak and Ben Ali, the Syrian uprising has instead replicated a “slow-motion disintegration” of the rich tapestry that has characterized the Syrian society for centuries.
What has the Honorable Albert del Rosario, head of the foreign office, been doing? He recently personally evacuated overseas Filipino workers out of Syria (Inquirer, 9/5/12). There is something grossly wrong when the boss of the entire foreign service himself does the job of his men abroad.
By Christopher R. Hill
Much has been said about the similarities between the chaos in Syria and the Balkan wars of the 1990s. But while the prolonged killing may indeed be reminiscent, the political and diplomatic effort that finally ended the war in Bosnia is hardly in evidence today.
The question has to be asked: For how long will the Philippine government maintain its “strategic silence” vis-à-vis the civil conflict in Syria, which gets bloodier with each carnage reported, the latest being the killing of 108 people, including 49 children and 34 women, in Houla on May 25?
By Itamar Rabinovich
The failure of the Obama administration, its Western allies, and several Middle East regional powers to take bolder action to stop the carnage in Syria is often explained by their fear of anarchy. Given the Syrian opposition’s manifest ineffectiveness and disunity, so the argument goes, President Bashar al-Assad’s fall, when it finally comes, will incite civil war, massacres, and chaos, which is likely to spill over Syria’s borders, further destabilizing weak neighbors like Iraq and Lebanon, and leading, perhaps, to a regional crisis.
By H. Harry L. Roque Jr.
The Aquino administration’s grip on international law issues was tested recently in three pressing international incidents.
By Ronald S. Lauder
The widely held view in the West that the Arab Spring marks a clear step toward freedom and democracy in the Middle East now looks premature. The idea was probably based partly on wishful thinking, which overlooked the power realities actually shaping events. Even a year on, it is impossible to reach a definite conclusion—the situation is still too confusing, and the new leaders too unknown.
By Walden Bello
If any city has become emblematic of Syria’s version of the “Arab Spring,” it is Homs. This city, an opposition stronghold, was subjected to a 26-day siege by the Syrian Army in February. The estimates of how many people perished vary, with the city’s Chief of Police admitting to some 3,000 dead and the western press reporting twice or more that number.