Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Syrian disappointments and the Arab reality | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Damascus must be shocked from what it hears and sees from its former regional allies. Turkey has not ceased its denouncement of Syria’s security practices, and public criticism of the Syrian leadership. Qatar has also dealt with Damascus negatively, with regards to what is happening there. In an acrobatic move, Hamas turned on Damascus, flew to Cairo and reconciled with the Palestinian Authority, in the absence of the Syrian leadership that is busy putting out fires in Daraa, Duma, and the rest of its burning cities.

The Syrian regime must now see the failure of its foreign policies and not only because of the positions of these three parties, but more importantly because it overlooked local factors in its foreign dealings. What is the point of Syria’s alliance with Iran, which has become a burden, and where are the allies of the good days? The three Syrian disappointments; Turkey, Qatar and Hamas, reflect the realism that exists in the management of Arab politics. No state wants to be seen alongside a regime that is in conflict with its own people, unless it is going through the same thing. After the fall of the regime in Egypt, the myth of the iron regime was dispelled, and states learned to delay the disclosure of their real positions for a while. In addition, the horror of repression in Syria makes Arab governments an embarrassment to their citizens. No government could provide open support unless it was engaging in similar practices itself.

This reminds me of the embarrassing position I went through about 30 years ago, when I was a university student in the United States, whilst working at the same time as a reporter for “al-Jazeera” newspaper. On my way home during the university’s Christmas holidays, the editor Khalid al-Malik asked me to stop over in Damascus in order to complete some work for the newspaper. In the lobby of a hotel I sat next to a Saudi diplomat, and we talked about the situation in the Syrian capital, where there was a military deployment and the route to the Sheraton Hotel contained many barriers and checkpoints. At that time, what became known as the “massacre of Hama” was taking place. I told the diplomat that I was here on a task unrelated to the incident, and he advised me to leave immediately. It was feared that my presence would contribute to the looming political crisis, because a former colleague had passed me in Damascus. It was said that the late President Hafez al-Assad seemed like he wanted to talk about what had happened to the Saudi press, and in order to conduct the interview, Syrian media officials had found an obscure journalist like me who was on a visit to the capital. [It was said that I would be] quickly brought to the president for a photo opportunity, and then conduct an interview about the good relations and communication with Saudi Arabia. In short the diplomat told me that such an interview would not be published. It was clear that everyone was deliberately distancing themselves from the regime which was engaged in a bloody confrontation with its citizens. The next day I left the city which was covered in white snow.

Today history is repeating itself. Here is a friend of Damascus, Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey, publicly warning the Assad regime that his government cannot remain silent about what is happening there in terms of repression, especially with the Turkish elections coming up.