[In the Media] Syrian-Americans skeptical new peace plan will succeed one year after uprising
American Dr. Saleh K. of La Crescenta, who asked that his last name not be used for fear of retaliation against relatives in Syria, says he s skeptical of the regime s acceptance of the new peace plan.
PASADENA – Syrian-American Reem Salahi says she can’t bear to watch her parents’ native Syria – the country she considers home – torn apart by President Bashar Assad’s bloody crackdown.
United Nations envoy Kofi Annan said Tuesday he has received the support of both Syria and China for his plan to negotiate an end to the bloody Syrian conflict, which has now reportedly killed some 9,000 people.
But one year after the populist uprising was sparked by schoolchildren’s graffiti, Salahi – a civil rights attorney who works in Pasadena – is not convinced the Syrian people will be any safer.
“The reality on the ground hasn’t changed,” the Los Angeles resident, who formerly lived in Damascus, said Tuesday. “The government is still engaging in killings and massacres… The (Syrian) cities of Idlib and Homs are still under siege… Until it changes course, it’s hard to be optimistic about verbal commitments made in the course of a diplomatic meeting.”
Annan proposed a plan that includes a cease-fire by the Syrian government, a daily two-hour halt to fighting to allow humanitarian access and to evacuate the injured, and Syrian-led political talks to address the Syrian people’s concerns, the Associated Press reported.
But fierce clashes between regime soldiers and rebels continued Tuesday as the opposition accused Assad of trying to buy time as his troops made a new push to quash pockets of dissent.
Assad is seeking a way to end the
uprising against his regime without stepping down or turning over power to the revolutionary forces, according to Syria expert Joshua Landis.
“(Assad) believes that the Annan plan can be a step toward regaining international acceptance of his government,” Landis, director of the Center of Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, wrote Tuesday in his blog “Syria Comment.”
The new U.N. peace plan does not insist on Assad handing over power to the revolutionary leadership, which is why he finds it acceptable and why the opposition has denounced it, Landis said.
Congressman Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, said Tuesday that he too is skeptical of the regime’s acceptance of the U.N. peace plan.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a play by Bashar al-Assad to gain more time to divide the international community and give some cover to Russia,” he said.
Along with China, Russia has supplied weapons to the Syrian government, vetoed U.N. Security Council resolutions and “basically given a green light to the Assad regime to brutalize its own people,” Schiff said.
Schiff said he was also “deeply troubled” by feelings expressed by Syrian opposition leaders that they are being left by the international community to be slaughtered by the regime.
While the opposition is fractured and that has made international action difficult, the U.S. government should continue to press for tougher sanctions on Syria since they are starting “to have a real biting impact on the Syrian economy,” Schiff said. Defections from the regime are also on the rise, he said.
“I think the goal should be to end the violence and to get Assad to step down,” Schiff said. “And frankly, Assad should be brought up on war crimes’ charges.”
Syrian-American Dr. Saleh K. of La Crescenta, who asked that his last name not be used for fear of retaliation against relatives in Syria, believes the Syrian regime’s acceptance of the new peace plan is a tactic “to buy more time to kill more people.”
“The only way (for the Syrian regime) to suppress the people is to kill them; that’s the only way they know,” he said. “Nothing has changed since March15 of last year. Why should we believe them now?”
The people of Syria, he said, have made it known that they want freedom and democracy. Not only should Assad step down, he said, but all those responsible for the regime’s brutality in the last year should be brought to justice.
The United States, too, should “step inside the ring” to make sure the people’s desire for democracy is fulfilled, Saleh K. said.
He left Syria in the early 1980s to escape a government crackdown initiated by Assad’s late father, Hafez, that resulted in many thousands dead. He said he is most concerned that no one will stop Assad’s killings and his brutal regime will prevail.
That would be a disaster, he said, for all those who have opposed the government in the last year since they would likely be hunted down one by one and killed.
“There is no way back,” Saleh K. said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.