According to a news piece carried by the official [Syrian] news agency, an official source reported that the Syrian regime has rejected the new Arab initiative, which had drawn up a roadmap similar to what happened in Yemen to ensure a semi-peaceful transfer of power there. This, however, has caused several questions to be raised, most prominently: What will happen next? Will the next step be an international solution?
Indeed, the Syrian regime’s rejection itself raises questions, firstly: Is this the regime’s final stance? Or will the door be left ajar for negotiations? Based on our experience of Arab initiatives towards Syria so far, the regime in Damascus has been known to adopt contradictory stances. The latest of these initiatives was the Arab observer mission – considered at first [by the Syrian regime] to be a violation of Syrian sovereignty – yet following weeks of inquiries, exchanged messages and replies between Damascus and the Arab League, and following several amendments to the Arab protocol, observers were finally sent to Damascus, and now they themselves are the subject of endless controversy.
It would not be surprising if future events follow a path similar to the Arab initiative that was proposed after the recent Arab ministerial meeting, with the Syrian regime attempting to negotiate, make inquiries and then carry out amendments, as was the case with the observer mission, in a bid to buy time.
Let us be frank here, the decision to accept the Arab observers in Syria was nothing more than al-Assad’s submission to the pressure being mounted upon him, and an attempt to buy more time, hoping that his security apparatus would succeed in quelling the revolution and the numerous hotbeds of unrest. This is clear considering the increasing rate of killings and attacks on cities, which continued to escalate until the death toll in the presence of Arab observes rose to several hundred.
Therefore, we can observe that pressure is a catalyst for action, and the new Arab initiative – which raised the ceiling of Arab mobilization with regards to what is happening in Syria – has mounted further pressure on the al-Assad regime. However, the door has still been left ajar for a safe exit [for Bashar al-Assad] along the lines of what happened to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. This was represented by the advice offered by the Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, during the interview he gave to Asharq al-Awsat, when he touched upon the subject of Syria and al-Assad by saying “we must not put four walls in front of a wounded tiger. There must be a way out for him”. Of course, it is important that this message is taken on board, and that al-Assad understands what is meant by a way out.
We are now facing the final scene of the Syrian revolution, and this has become clear for everyone to see, whether inside Syria or outside, whether as part of the regime or the opposition, the regional parties; Arab and non-Arab, and the international powers. Al-Assad has been given several respites and plenty time, but nevertheless he has failed to present any real solutions. Furthermore, he has failed to destroy a revolution that has broken through the fear barrier, and has now begun to confront the regime’s weapons with arms of its own. Now the situation on the ground is changing but not to the advantage of the regime, which has begun to lose control of entire cities and districts.
It is a fact that no one can know what is happening within the corridors of power, or inside Syria’s governing institutions, but it is also a fact that the Arab initiative has thrown a stone into the ruling regime’s water, and we do not know whether this is stagnant or not. Surely officials and key figures within the regime’s institutions will begin to wonder: Is keeping the President worth the destruction of the country and its institutions, the continual bloodshed, the killings, and the continual divisions within the army and the security apparatus? I hope they will come to the rational answer, provided these officials have a sense of responsibility and the courage to ask themselves such questions.
Is there anyone within the Syrian leadership who can ask such questions? This will become apparent in the days to come.