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Obstinacy in the final hours - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Before the attack on Baghdad in 2003, the pressure on the then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had reached its peak. It was clear that an American attack was imminent, and Saddam’s defeat was certain, and the President’s options were reduced to two choices: leave or be eliminated.

At the time, Saddam chose the first option, whereby he agreed through his envoy and personal secretary Abed Hamid to relinquish power and for Iraq to avoid a war, under the mediation of UAE leaders. Subsequently, Arab leaders met at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, when the then Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Musa refused to accept the UAE solution, prompting the Iraqi delegation to protest under the pretext that Saddam Hussein would not surrender. Back in Baghdad, Saddam Hussein was left in an embarrassing situation and, being a man of pride, he backed down from his earlier agreement. Had he left, the history of Iraq would have changed without all the bloodshed.

A few days ago, the Russian Ambassador to Paris dropped a bombshell when he revealed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had agreed to step down in a civilized manner, under the Geneva agreement concocted by the international delegate Kofi Annan, yet the official spokesperson in Damascus was quick to deny this story. It is certain that the Russian Ambassador knows the truth, because he knows the details. When he said “stepping down in a civilized manner”, he probably meant a one way ticket out of Syria. It is understood that Bashar al-Assad also denies this secret story, because the exposure of any agreement could cause a rapid collapse in morale among his troops and leaders, if they knew that the man whose crimes they are defending was planning to save himself and leave them alone to their fate.

Bashar al-Assad is feeling greater pressure than ever before after the explosion at the national security building in Damascus. Reliable information says that this was a deliberate act, whereby the security leaders’ meeting place blew up due to an improvised explosive device detonated from the outside, after the meeting was adjourned. Bashar now feels that he is no longer safe. This is the second time in which his men have been exposed to an assassination attempt – the first was unsuccessful attempt to poison their food – and this time the operation was carried out by one of their staff in one of the most secret and well-guarded locations in Damascus. Bashar can no longer trust the bodyguards standing at his bedroom door, he can no longer sleep easily.

The genuine fragmentation on the ground, the ongoing collapse in morale and the arrival of battles to the capital – where a man can hear the sound of bullets as he eats his dinner, and there are armed conflicts every day – all mean that Bashar al-Assad is facing the same fate as Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein, and he must either flee or meet their grisly end.

Yet Bashar al-Assad is known for his obstinacy and foolishness, and because of this he has committed dozens of blunders and crimes. He insisted on extending former Lebanese President Emile Lahoud’s reign, even though his presidential term had ended. He insisted on the removal of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, preventing him from contesting elections and then assassinating him, along with dozens of other Lebanese figures who opposed him. Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis last year, Bashar has insisted on refusing every initiative until this day, destroying Syria and killing tens of thousands. But now he ends up begging Annan for a “civilized” way out!

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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