Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Post-Assad Syria: Words and Actions | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A war is raging on Syrian soil between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), together with al-Assad’s troops and the Shabiha forces. At the same time, there seems to be growing political clamor about Syria both internationally and regionally. Amidst such clamor, stances and policies are differing markedly, visions of a timely solution vary, and there are contradictory means and ways of achieving unharmonious and non-concordant objectives. In fact, this all is due to a state of global paralysis as a result of the Russian-Chinese veto in the Security Council, and also due to numerous external causes.

Indeed, the FSA is impressive, for it has emphasized time and again on the ground that it is the true representative of the Syrian people, who completely reject the Bashar al-Assad regime and its murderous gangs. It is thanks to its operations and the people’s support that the FSA is notching up successes time after time in battles, although these are yet to provide a decisive end to the war. However, such battles are adding to the FSA’s credibility, undermining al-Assad’s stances, and weakening the structure of the regime’s army and security apparatuses.

International equations and balances are at a standstill with regards to the situation in Syria, as everyone continues to search for a way out in a manner that can maintain their interests and international status; from Russia to the US. The Syrian people are unfortunate to have become the center of an international struggle that has nothing to do with them. Yet, they must shoulder all the consequences of delays, consultations and balances until an actual solution is attained whereby the most brutal regime in the modern world is exterminated.

Bashar al-Assad’s vision of dragging the country into a civil war and his illusions of creating an Alawite state in the mountains have been boosted by the state of hesitation and tension the world is experiencing today. Internationally, all we hear are mere words and rising clamor without action. International powers seem to be adopting a louder tone with heated rhetoric to reflect their anger, yet the words are never transformed into actions.

In view of this situation, present-day Syria seems like a scene for a new Cold War between the East and the West, or the US and the European Union on the one hand, and Russia and China on the other. This time, different regional powers have emerged; Israel and Iran for example, the newly-formed radical axis, and the stable powers that were once part of the moderate axis. Syria is not Vietnam or Afghanistan, and certainly it is not Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Syrian case will not be determined by the size of massacres committed, even if they have an impact on international movements and resolutions, but rather by the interests of superpowers and the struggles of regional countries. All these interests are conflicting at a time of great transition across the world and the region, not just Syria. But the bloody struggle in Syria will have a profound impact, and the later a solution is found, the more complex and costly the result will be.

The al-Assad regime will fall, but the Syrian opposition remains dispersed, without solid leadership, and is now in a state of disagreement and lacks coordination. As things stand, the hesitant world will be complicit in the spread of backwardness across the Arab world, starting from Syria. Sectarianism and tribalism will grow, and a free rein will be given to racism. In this new scene everyone will pay a price, and the impact will not be limited to the Syrians and their current struggle.

I previously wrote about the illusions of the Alawite state that are firmly entrenched in al-Assad’s mind (16 June and 7 July). I was surprised by the numerous reactions with a sharp, vengeful tone of a blatant sectarian nature. This mindset is the greatest engine behind al-Assad’s policies, and Bashar and his family will seek to harvest this more in the future. Rational minds in Syria, the region and the world must pay attention to the magnitude of such a looming sectarian danger. They must take this into account before they finish with al-Assad’s ouster, and perhaps even before ceasing the systematic bloodshed.

The FSA is fighting a major battle in Aleppo that is markedly different from all previous battles in Damascus. Aleppo is situated in the far north of Syria where the districts adjacent to the Turkish border have been under the FSA’s control for quite some time. The FSA is in full control of the roads in these areas so they can ensure continual logistic support for their troops, unlike al-Assad’s army coming from Damascus, where the FSA can block off their supplies, attack them and undermine their destructive potential.

The FSA is fighting battles against the regime according to the principles of “guerrilla warfare”. Its fighters are well drilled in the tactics of attacking and retreating according to these principles, which are certainly more successful than traditional military confrontations between the two armies. If the FSA had to defend fixed locations, it would sustain heavy causalities.

According to all indications, post-Assad Syria will be completely different to the country under al-Assad. Iran will be the biggest loser, and with it, all its agents in the region will emerge lose out as well; from Iraq, Lebanon to Hezbollah. In its feverish endeavor to back al-Assad in such a hopeless battle, Iran has exposed Hezbollah’s sectarian nature to those intellectuals and media representatives who were once deceived by empty slogans about “resistance”. Hezbollah will suffer extensively from any future activities after a new state rises in Syria that rejects its discourse.

On the other hand, in Iraq, where widespread sectarianism has prevailed under Iran’s auspices since 2003, the country will now face a Syrian state that harbors no positive sentiments towards the Iraqi government. In fact, the extensions of Arab Sunni tribes along the two border lines are already quite active, and this has forced al-Maliki to open the border for some Syrian refugees. Iraq will now have to handle this situation wisely and refrain from throwing itself into the Iranian incinerator to rescue al-Assad.

It is admirable that Syria’s Arab friends and others are trying to move diplomatically in international institutions to adopt stances that expose the states championing the al-Assad regime. However, what is even better, as recent events have shown, is that the battle now is being decided on the ground by the Syrian people themselves.