Assad: How an inheritor loses his heritage |
Arab News - 09 July, 2012
Author: Khaled Al-Dakheel
There is semi-unanimity that the Syrian regime is fighting its last battle. The paradox is that the regime is fighting this battle against its own people, which it is ruling in its name.
Social, economic and political figures confirm this. But let us put all this aside and listen to the president himself. He is now admitting what he has been denying, ignoring or belittling before. In his address to his new government about two weeks ago, Bashar Assad said: “We are in a real state of war. This being the case, we should direct all our efforts and resources to win over this war.”
Before that, the president used to describe what was going on in Syria as not more than the work of some outlaws. However, the army with its tanks, armored vehicles, aircraft, snipers and militias fought the battle. The number of deaths reached tens of thousands. It is no longer possible to deny what is happening. The president finally admitted this, but his recognition came out incomplete and reversed. What is really going on in Syria is a popular revolution. The war the president is talking about is in fact a war being launched by the regime against its people.
In his interview with the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, the president said things he had been evading before. When he was asked about the Turkish fighter that had been shot down by his defenses, he said: “We are a country at war. When you do not know the identity of the fighter, you will assume it is a hostile warplane.” When he was asked if Syria was willing to assist Turkey in reducing the operations of the Kurdistan Labor Party, he answered: “If we want to assist you today we will not be able to do so. In order to assist or protect you I must first protect myself. Is it possible that I protect you while I have not wholly protected myself yet?”
The president and his regime are in need for protection, but from whom? From their very own people! The war the president is talking about is a war against his own people. Figures reveal that the death toll has reached more than 16,000 in addition to the injured, captivated, the missing and the displaced. These people have not dropped on Syria from heaven. They are Syrian nationals with families, relatives, friends and supporters. Add to this a large chunk of the silent Syrians who do not approve of the bloody nature of the regime but are helpless and coerced. Does the president realize he is in war against his own people and against history, and that whoever fights history will definitely be a loser?
The Syrian president is not in a state of denial but in a state of arrogance, which is deep down defeated. He lost his internal security and came face to face with his people. He also lost his regional and international cover. Everyone is demanding him to leave. He is only supported by Putin, Ahmadinejad and Hassan Nasrallah. Ordinary people, before politicians, are speaking inside and outside Syria about the post-Assad era. The rule his father had built in 1970 and he inherited in 2000 has reached its deadline, but the president does not want to recognize this. He may never realize this fact. Due to his attitudes and policies, Syria turned from a regional player to a playground in which others, including his friends and foes, play. This result did not come all of a sudden, but has accumulated over time to explode now. How did this happen?
The fact of the matter is that President Bashar Assad, Syria, and the entire region are paying the price of the inheritance got. He was made an inheritor in a seemingly democratic regime whose earlier roots (before the Baath Party) were popular. It had some elements of democracy in it. The regime he inherited was based on a small gang surrounded by a large number of security elements. The regime depended on its relationship with the people, making them fear it and fear each other as well. Such a regime would not have existed without two main factors: a complete internal grip at any cost and a regional and international cover. The ideology the regime was using was not of his own making, but imported from outside; they were trading in the Palestinian cause, which after a while lost its vigor and credibility. The people discovered that the regime did not lead to anything but to poverty, corruption, repression and the loss of Palestine! Using the slogan of Palestine and the pretext of resistance was only a justification for the corruption and repression the rulers used to remain in power. For this reason, people inside went out of control. His supporters outside lost their appetite and the need to pay the price of covering for the crimes of the regime. How did matters reach this point?
We do not know if President Hafiz Assad in his last days, while he was preparing his son to succeed him, gave him the advice of a man who spent more than half his age in politics and in building a rule he knew would go to his son after him. At that time, Bashar was in his 30s and lacked any political experience. The legacy of rule is usually a heavy one, but how would it be if it were the kind he obtained from his father? It is obvious that Bashar has committed a number of fatal mistakes his father was keen to avoid during his 30 years of rule. Hafiz Al-Assad was keen to avoid them despite the historic events that took place during his rule, including Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem, Eygpt’s unilateral peace treaty with Israel, the complete boycott of relations between Baghdad and Damascus after Saddam Hussein came to power in 1979, the Iraq-Iran war that continued for many years, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the summer of 1990.
It was said that Hafiz Assad had a strategic sense, which enabled him to not be dragged into all these developments, but it is clear that his strategic sense was limited to his foreign relationships and did not extend to the internal affairs and balances. The father committed the sin of making his son an inheritor.
It is commonly believed that the idea of inheritance of rule first surfaced in 1983 following a violent conflict between President Hafiz and his brother Rifaat Assad, which almost led to a destructive civil war. The president was convinced that his brother Rifaat, who was the commander of the defense brigades, was planning to inherit him while he was still alive. British journalist Patrick Seal, who wrote a book about the differences between the two Assad brothers, did not indicate that Rifaat was plotting to inherit his brother. Hafiz was, however, convinced that his brother was plotting to succeed him.
By his decision to pass over the presidency to his son, President Hafiz Assad practically put his family in the place of the ruling Baath Party. By so doing, he completely wiped out whatever was left from the credibility of the party. His decision also reflected the sectarian nature of the regime. It showed that trust in his close family was the sole parameter for power transfer. This trust could also be in his close relatives, the in-laws, people from the same religious sect or all these factors put together.
The inheritance rule erupted conflicts among the various wings of the Baath Party. By his decision to pass over the rule to his son, President Hafiz Assad estranged all his partners who backed him in the coup that brought down President Salah Jadeed and in building his regime, imposing it by force on the people.
Bashar was not sure he was in control until 2005, when Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri was murdered and he was personally accused to be behind the murder.
The inheritance decision made the entire country with all its history and political weight fall under a small family belonging to a minor religious sect. Did this decision have a hand in the outbreak of the revolution? What are the fatal mistakes Bashar has committed?
n Courtesy: Al-Hayat newspaper