What about the Day Before? |
Asharq Al-Awsat - 13 August, 2012
Author: Abdullah Iskandar
The US Secretary of State is in Ankara to discuss “the day after” the fall of President Bashar Al-Assad. The United Nations is looking for an envoy in order to prepare for this day. Meetings and conferences are taking place in Istanbul, Paris, Geneva, New York and Doha, all of them discussing this “day after”. And of course, visions differ and contradict each other, as they contradict the reality on the ground in Syria, where it seems that the current situation, preceding the “day after”, will last for a long time, with what this entails in terms of killing and destruction, at the financial, humanitarian and social levels.
Thus, while waiting for this promised “day after”, the scope of the violence that accompanies confrontations between the regime and the opposition is nearly indescribable. It is violence that not only destroys buildings and kills human beings, but also breaks down what connection might be left between Syrians themselves, in such a way that the “day after” may well not witness a unified Syrian state, nor a unified Syrian people. Of course, such violence could very well be intentional, in order to exclude the return of Syria the state to its past unity.
It seems that the regime in Damascus, despite broadening armed confrontations and the advance achieved by the opposition on the field as a result of having obtained new weapons, still holds sufficient military power to allow it to prolong the current situation for the foreseeable future, and thus to delay the “day after”.
The regime also enjoys unlimited support from Russia, and with it China, to obstruct any international measure from being taken that would force it to change its behavior on the ground, which would allow for shortening the waiting period until the “day after”. It also benefits from military support and armament from its allies, especially Iran, in such a way as to allow it to renew its killing machine. Moreover, the regime benefits from training and fighting expertise, and perhaps even fighters to compensate for the losses it has suffered among the ranks of its troops as a result of the confrontations taking place.
In addition to all of this, it is set apart by its use of the air force for bombings and raids, which allows it to achieve goals on the battlefield that cannot be achieved by using ground troops. This is what happened in Homs, and later in Damascus, and what is happening today in Aleppo and Idlib.
This is at the material level. At the political level, on the other hand, the regime, which is suffering from a hemorrhage in the form of defections, still has the ability to exploit the fragmentation among the opposition and the lack of clarity of its vision regarding both the current situation and the “day after”.
And just as those factors represented a negative element for the two previous delegations of the Arab League and the United Nations, one which the regime exploited in order to elude implementation and persist in its approach, nothing proves today that the opposition has moved, as a group, to a phase in which it has overcome such negative elements and become able to take real political action, whether today or on the “day after”.
All of this is to say that the current situation could last for a long time, forming an element of attrition not just for the regime, but also for the opposition. And this in itself drags the country into a vicious circle, within which takes place killing, destruction and demographic redistribution, while hatred grows, acts of vengeance increase, and the space for extremist ideas widens on both sides.
Most dangerous about such a vicious circle is the fact that it will not be restricted to Syria alone. Indeed, indications of it spreading in the region have begun to appear, particularly in Iraq and in Lebanon. And regardless of the soundness of American accusations against Hezbollah and Iran, their impact deepens the sectarian divide across borders, with everything that this would involve in terms of generalized war.
All of these dangers impose concern with the current situation first and foremost, i.e. with the day before the day after. It would perhaps be possible to mitigate the scope of the violence, losses and political and social fragmentation. In other words, to prepare for a “day after” in which Syria would be unified, as a state and as a people, with hope for a democratic and pluralistic system, one which would necessarily go through resolving the current situation in such a way as to force the regime to abandon the military solution, and to save what remains of cohesion among Syrians and of buildings in Syria’s cities.