Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Whoever thinks Assad will leave is deluded | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A picture of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is seen on the central bank building in Damascus, in this February 24, 2012 file photo. (REUTERS)

US Senator John McCain was among the first to adopt the Syrian people’s cause as his own, warning that the ongoing conflict will not disappear if the US just turns its back on it. As things happened, everything he predicted and warned about has turned out to be right. He warned that not supporting the opposition would give the Syrian regime the impression that it has a green light to act beyond any limits, that it would reject negotiations and continue indulging in committing brutal crimes.

He warned that chaos in Syria would attract terrorist groups and that letting the Free Syrian Army (FSA) fight Assad’s well-equipped army alone would be a loss to the world. He described Russia’s, Iran’s and Hezbollah’s interventions as dangerous expansions that one must not remain silent about in the already turbulent Middle East and that it would export war to the rest of the region.

Almost everything he said has become a reality. Syria is a failed state today and a hotbed for Iranians, Hezbollah, Iraqi militias, Al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It is a war in which the regime has used a variety of banned weapons. It has shelled cities and towns using jets, cannons, tanks, chemical weapons and explosive barrels. Despite this systematic murder, supported by the Russians and the Iranians, the international community has done virtually nothing in response.

Syria’s war has indeed expanded, now threatens Turkey, Lebanon, and even Jordan. Al-Qaeda-affiliated ISIS now moves around freely between Syria and Iraq, recruiting thousands of youths who will later fight outside Syria.

Senator McCain said on Saturday that the Geneva conference was doomed to fail because of Assad’s reliance on military supremacy, adding that the FSA needs US support in order to shift the balance of power and save Syrians from their desperate plight.

What McCain is saying is real. Assad has not allowed and will not allow food and aid to reach those who are hungry and cold. These besieged people have no aid except the little they are receiving from charitable donations, and the FSA brigades fighting by their side. Some of them have been forced to accept the governance of Al-Qaeda and ISIS who have offered their services to protect them and take care of them at a time when the major global powers have turned their back on them.

The US must understand that Al-Qaeda and its affiliates like ISIS are the only hope for the millions of people besieged and confronting death through hunger, cold or gunfire. Ever since its expulsion from Afghanistan in 2001, Al-Qaeda has found no haven or greeting place like the one it has found in Syria today—largely due to the tragedy committed by the axis of evil, Assad, Iran, Hezbollah and Iraq, and the world’s betrayal of the majority of the Syrian people.

Conferences in Geneva and UN envoys will not put an end to the war in Syria. The cause will grow and grow unless world powers intervene. The formula has become as follows: Assad will not win because he cannot govern the sweeping majority of the Syrian people who rebelled against him and broke the barrier of fear three years ago.

Since this majority does not have adequate weapons, it will not be able to topple the regime. The war will therefore continue and Syria will become a breeding ground for terrorism and a major exporter of chaos to the region and the world.

The solution lies in forcing Assad to exit power and in supporting the FSA, which represents all Syrians whether Muslims, Christians, Arabs or Kurds, and which is willing to accept any form of civil governance imposed by the UN to democratically run the country without Assad.

This opportunity is diminishing. By this I mean that the capabilities of the FSA and the Syrian National Coalition are diminishing—unless the world rises up to support them, making them the only representatives of the Syrian people, and helping them fight both Assad and Al-Qaeda.