Damascus (AsiaNews/ Agencies) - As the world waits for Syrian President Assad to respond to UN envoy Kofi Annan's proposal for a ceasefire, the United Nations Security splits again over the Syrian crisis, this despite appeals by the UN Secretary general Ban Ki-moon for unity. In the meantime, the death toll reaches 8,000 with some 230,000 people displaced by the conflict.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister and Sergei Lavrov clashed yesterday on how to force Assad out of power and end a year of bloodshed.
The United States, the European Union, the Arab League and Turkey agreed to a resolution that would condemn the regime's violence against civilians, with the possibility of an armed intervention in the country.
According to the US secretary, the Assad government has lost all credibility. She described the killing of hundreds of civilians, including women and children in Homs, during Kofi Annan's visit, as "cynical." Video images of the killing appeared on line.
Citing events in Libya where Muslim extremists are conducting summary executions, Russia's foreign minister, backed by China, said that an intervention in favour of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) would lead to revenge killings and arbitrary violence against anyone not aligned with the rebels.
For Lavrov, "an immediate end of violence" is "the number one priority." In his view, the FSA is also guilty of horrible acts against loyalist forces and should assume its responsibilities.
Experts say that al-Qaeda has been infiltrating Syria for months, recruiting people coming through Turkey.
In July 2011, Ankara also admitted it was helping to train former Assad soldiers and rebels who now make up the FSR.
Sunni tribes on the border with Iraq are also said to be playing a role.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, an Iraqi Sunni leader aid that he sent hundreds of men and thousands of dollars to help the SFA. However, he denied any connections with al-Qaeda. "We want freedom and democracy," he said, "but they started killing us" and so they turned against the regime.
The sheikh is a member of Sahwa, armed groups created in 2006 to hunt down al-Qaeda operatives coming from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and other Arab countries responsible for hundreds of Iraqi civilian deaths.
However, the possibility of an armed intervention without clear bounds leaves more than one Syrian activist wondering.
Wissam Tarif is a Beirut-based Syrian dissident who led some of the peaceful demonstrations that sparked Syria's revolt in March 2011. In his view, militarisation has to come with conditions; it cannot happen without a civilian leadership on the ground acting as a check.
Since the government and the military's officer corps is dominated by Alawites, members of Assad's minority sect, revenge killings by the largely Sunni opposition would be difficult to contain.
"Arming the FSA could end up like something out of Rwanda," Tarif said. "They could start killing all the Alawites." This is why a way out would be a coup by someone within the Alawite minority.
Although the regime is weakening and many of its allies are jumping ship, the Druze for example, many Sunni businessmen are still backing Assad. This is true for other minorities.
Hence, the international community ought to contact these people and push them to abandon the regime.