The message from the five French intellectuals and politicians in Le Monde newspaper on Monday reminds us of Lakhdar Brahimi’s hopes for a calm, if not happy, Eid al-Adha for the Syrian people, following his meeting with Bashar al-Assad. The five French intellectuals had delivered a message to the West to the effect that there have been enough evasions and that a future democratic Syria requires decisive assistance. These calls, like Lakhdar Brahimi’s before them, are mere hopes, whereas political calculations and international and regional power struggles are what determine the steps on the ground, and this is what has made the situation stall in its place.
In the article penned by Jacques Beres, Mario Bettati, André Glucksmann, Bernard Kouchner and Bernard-Henri Lévy, the authors call on France and Britain to neutralize the Syrian warplanes that are bombing cities and villages, arm the democratic opposition currents and reassure the Alawites, including those in the ruling circle who want to get rid of the head of state. The objective is to stop the tyranny of the al-Assad family and the growing influence of Islamic extremists among the Syrian opposition.
This proposal is along the lines of what happened in Libya, and it is full of good intentions, but it ignores the fact that the intervention of European countries there – under the cover of NATO when Benghazi was under threat of being overrun by Gaddafi’s forces – would not have been possible without crucial “back seat” American support, beginning with the impressive airstrikes that paralyzed Gaddafi’s defenses.
The authors also provide a somewhat eloquent description of the current reality in the Syrian crisis, where around 35,000 people have died according to declared statistics. It seems everyone is avoiding this reality, including the pillars of the Syrian regime themselves who must now realize that they will not be part of the political solution if the fighting stops.
Regional and international parties have consumed many initiatives, proposals and projects, including Kofi Annan’s six point plan when he was regional and international envoy, the proposal to send international observers, and now Brahimi’s attempt to open even a small window by proposing an Eid ceasefire, which seems to have led to nothing. Al-Assad has not changed the strategy that he has followed from the outset, provisionally accepting initiatives and then emptying them of their contents, and continuing to fight with the aim of eliminating the armed opposition. To do this he relies on the support of his international and regional allies, along with Washington’s unwillingness to get involved in a new mess after what happened in Iraq, particularly given its preoccupation with its presidential elections and economic crisis.
Yet the problem is that this mess is an open one, and no one can escape it. International dealings, without resolving the situation or pressuring to change the military balance, have exacerbated the crisis, and have made the risks greater and the solution more difficult. The talk about extremists and jihadists in the Syrian crisis did not exist a few months ago, but the length of the conflict and the growing bloodshed has opened the door to anyone who wants to exploit the situation for their own objectives. The same thing applies to the Syrian regime, which was once counting on the time factor in order to crush the peaceful uprising militarily, and has now found itself in a civil war where it has lost control of around half the country, and is still avoiding the fact that it no longer has a future in future Syria.
Will the equation change after the US election? We are all waiting to find out.