World Middle East

Former UN envoy Brahimi: Mideast could 'blow up' if Syria not checked

Lakhdar Brahimi: 'How much killing and destruction' before Syrian war ends?
Former UN envoy Brahimi warns of looming regional disaster if Syrian civil war isn't checked

The crisis in Syria, if left unchecked, poses grave risks to the entire Mideast, the former United Nations special envoy for Syria says.

Lakhdar Brahimi, who resigned last month, spoke in a no-holds-barred interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, saying that "unless there is a real, sustained effort to work out a political solution, there is a serious risk that the region will blow up."

Syria is embroiled in a civil war pitting opposition rebels desperate to wrest control from forces loyal to President Bashar Assad. The fighting, which began as a series of largely peaceful uprisings that quickly turned violent, has killed 160,000 people and forced many to leave their homes to escape the violence.

In the interview, published over the weekend, Brahimi said he had hoped Assad would take on the role of kingmaker instead of staying on as president. But he said many underestimated Assad, who recently received 88.7% of the vote in a presidential election that was limited to government-held regions and which drew widespread international condemnation.

"But the thing is they thought that the regime was going to fall easily -- complete misconception. Syria has a state, it has an army, and it was assumed that it was going to fall just like Libya did," he said.

Brahimi said military intervention to oust Assad would be "very, very dangerous," drawing a comparison to Iraq. But he said a U.N. peacekeeping force might eventually offer a solution.

"The Syrians would have to agree for the U.N. to come in," he said. "It doesn't look likely today or tomorrow, but this conflict has got to be resolved. And it will be at some point. The question is: How much killing and destruction are we going to have before that happens? People are telling me that [the Syrian city of] Homs looks like Berlin in 1945."

Bulos is a special correspondent.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
  • Syrian regime releases hundreds of prisoners

    Syrian regime releases hundreds of prisoners

    The Syrian government released hundreds of prisoners as part of a general amnesty granted by President Bashar Assad in celebration of his reelection this week, according to opposition and government sources.

  • 4 arrested in 71 migrant deaths in Austria

    4 arrested in 71 migrant deaths in Austria

    A truck found abandoned on an Austrian highway contained the bodies of 71 migrants, including four children, and four suspects in the case have been arrested in Hungary, Austrian and Hungarian authorities said Friday.