Syria: Facts and red lines |
Asharq Al-Awsat - 29 August, 2012
Author: Abdullah Al-Otaibi
Amidst the scenes of bloodshed and torn-off limbs in Syria, the unlimited support the Bashar al-Assad regime is receiving from Russia, China and Iran, and the futile Western attempts find means of salvation and ensure the protection of the Syrian people, a number of facts must be pointed out:
First: The Syrian revolution began as a peaceful one, influenced by the so-called Arab Spring. Yet, the Syrian revolution is a special case, for it is being fuelled by the bloodthirsty history of a tyrannical regime par excellence, on a scale unrivaled by any other country in the region or the contemporary world. The regime opted to counter the revolution with the maximum amount of force, violence and bloodshed possible, in an effort to quell the uprising in accordance with its own experience and oppressive history. This naturally and logically prompted the uprising to develop into an armed revolution, whereby the people responded to the regime’s use of force by using weapons of their own, with increasing emphasis on al-Assad’s downfall, and many believe the hour has come.
Second: The use of weapons began on an individual level and was fueled by the rage and hatred that the regime spread widely among the peaceful public. Many of those people had not previously participated in the ongoing peaceful revolution, and nevertheless their towns and homes were bombarded. The killing of their relatives and friends prompted them to transform into resilient opponents of the wild regime, seeking to enact revenge and commit violence against it.
Third: In a new development, the mass anger and protests developed from mere reactions into political and military action with systematic organization and planning. Politically, this was undertaken by the Syrian National Council (SNC), and militarily by the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Whilst the political approach failed to make much headway given that feeble Western powers were unsuccessful in issuing any international resolutions, or in taking any action outside of international organizations, the military process was effective and influential, albeit through a zigzag course for a variety of reasons, and qualitative operations were carried out with the FSA gaining control of large areas of the country.
Fourth: An outside observer of the situation would confirm that, in general, the regime's power is in decline; it is shrinking and losing control of numerous areas, whilst on the other side the FSA's power is on the rise and gaining more strength and influence. This is despite the fact that the regime's army and troops are being constantly resupplied by Russia and Iran. As for the FSA, it only receives backdoor support that cannot be compared to the al-Assad regime’s resources. Nevertheless, the regime's symbols and supporters (before anyone else) are becoming convinced day after day that the regime's end is imminent.
Fifth: The imminent collapse of the regime is clearly being reflected by major defections, whether militarily, politically, diplomatically or culturally. Everyone has begun to look for a safe way to jump off the sinking ship. Some have succeeded in doing so whilst others have failed, ultimately being killed by the regime's oppressive machine. Everyone now expects the regime to fall soon or later. There still seems to be a group seeking to defect but it is fearful of al-Assad’s oppression, aware that the regime will not hesitate to use the most violent and repulsive means to confront its opponents and defectors, whether inside Syria or in Lebanon, where the Syrian regime has long-term connections.
Sixth: the al-Assad regime has long considered Lebanon to be its back yard that supports its allies and represses, kills and bombards its opponents. The history of this relationship is long and there is countless evidence. However, the scene inside Lebanon is different now, as some have come to view the Syrian state as a rival whilst al-Assad’s supporters in Lebanon are growing frustrated at the status-quo and the future. Following the scandal of Michel Samaha, the stances of the pro-Assad Lebanese – whether they provide support in practice or merely in rhetoric – have differed markedly. This was clearly seen with Hezbollah – a party that receives its highest commands from Iran – which has adopted a particularly feeble discourse. There are others who seem less enthusiastic in their rhetoric than ever before, for example former General Michel Aoun. There are also others who are considering defecting but lack the courage of Walid Jumblatt, who once submitted to the will of al-Assad and caused the March 14th alliance to divide, thus enabling the Hezbollah government to seize control of Lebanon. However, Jumblatt has since spared no effort in calling for the end of al-Assad.
Seventh: All international and regional powers have drawn red lines for their opponents. The US has drawn a red line for the Syrian regime (only) with regards to chemical weapons; whist Russia has drawn similar borders as expressed by its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said "the red line is clear." The Islamic Republic of Iran never hesitates to say that Bashar al-Assad's security represents a red line. Finally the British Daily Telegraph newspaper, relying on Western intelligence, has uncovered an Iranian report, produced under the auspices of the Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei, which states that Iran “should demonstrate to the West that there are red lines over what it will accept in Syria". This all is happening whilst the Syrian people continue to suffer without a red line to protect their lives and futures, or to defend them.
Eighth: All the Syrian regime's masks of resistance have fallen completely. Those who supported the regime politically, culturally and in the media all frantically searched for an exit strategy to preserve their personal dignity and stature. However, they were all exposed and are now searching for a new slogan or fabrication to hide behind.
Ninth: Lakhdar Brahimi’s mission will not fare any better than Kofi Annan's, for it is doomed to failure before it has even started. Its only achievement will be to grant al-Assad more time to kill his own people.
Arab and Muslim states, and countries around the world, must draw red lines to prevent the extermination of the Syrian people and the al-Assad regime’s creation of a civil war in Syria. Those states must protect their interests in Syria and the region and establish themselves as strong and active players. They must prove that they are capable of responding to the new Iraq and its full submission to the Iranian agenda.
Furthermore, Arab decision-makers must be wary of two trends within America: Firstly, there is a definite US bias towards supporting political Islam movements as they attempt to claim power in several Arab states, and secondly, the US is seeking to grant Turkey a dominant role with regards to what is happening in Syria, and therefore in the region as a whole.