Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

When will the “Ship-Jumping” phase begin in Syria? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Syrian revolution has been characterized by different attributes, especially after events in other Arab countries which witnessed revolutions and were labeled as part of the “Arab Spring”. However, the situation in Syria also poses many confusing questions in relation to the outside world which is monitoring it; either with admiration or concern, and we feel that there are many hidden variables which those inside Syria cannot see either.

Syria, without doubt, comes under the category of the “Arab Spring” with its popular uprising that has been ongoing for over 8 months with amazing resolution. At the beginning, the Syrian President believed that the storm in both Tunisia and Egypt was warranted and he lent his support, believing that the Syrian situation was different. He considered Syria to be a state of opposition and resistance, alongside other such terms which the people had grown tired of and discovered they were false. Certainly, just as what happened in Tunisia gave the demonstrators in Egypt’s Tahrir Square moral momentum, the latter events gave the moral impetus to the Syrians that change was indeed possible. We can bet that al-Assad now wishes that Mubarak or Ben Ali were still in power. Rhetoric is one thing, but confronting your people who are simply seeking a better life is another, and therefore Damascus, officially speaking, stood by Gaddafi until the last moment.

But the Syrian people’s uprising took on another dimension that brought with it puzzling questions, unlike Tunisia and Egypt, where the respective army establishments refused to fire upon their own people. The situation was different in Syria, where the army, or at least a sector of it, was directly affiliated to the ruling regime, a situation which has led to the bloodbath we have seen. While we see scenes of tanks entering the cities and giving the impression that the regime is waging war on its own people, the Syrians have continued their uprising until this day with courage and steadfastness that has drawn global admiration. They have given the world a different picture of Syria, away from the original belief that its population was passive and dormant. The world has been surprised to see people uprising and struggling resolutely in order to gain their freedom, despite the magnitude of the price they have paid.

Because the structure of the regime in Syria resembles the iron-fist communist regimes of the 1960s and 1970s before the fall of the Berlin wall, much of what goes on is not understood or known in the outside world. For many months the issue of the Syrian revolutionaries insisting on coming out to protest day after day remained puzzling; no one knew who these people were or how they organized themselves, and why they were so resolute in their confrontation with all manners of suppression from the Shabiha to the intelligence services, and even tanks. This was until some faces of the opposition became known and were branded as the coordinators of the spreading revolution.

Those in Syria who insisted on getting their message across to the world through their videos, slogans, and banners have excelled in doing so. However, they were less fortunate than their counterparts in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, as for some reason there was a period of hesitation before they gained support, and this is one of the most puzzling questions. The Security Council has so far failed to pass any form of resolution, and opportunities granted one after the other, both regionally and internationally, for the regime to save itself have been of no benefit. The most recent of these was the Arab League initiative, which was accepted by the Syrian regime, but nothing changed on the ground.

In spite of the international and regional impatience, some continue to swallow the bait of the sectarian card that the regime has tried to level at its opponents. It has also sought to manipulate the issue of minorities feeling intimidated, as if the minority community would not benefit from the free atmosphere that would emerge as a result of changing the regime!

It is clear that the Syrian regime is under severe pressure, regionally and internationally, and all that remain are a handful of weak allies alongside Iran, which is another state that has begun to lodge veiled criticism. Of course, the regime is under intense pressure internally, for there must be groups or individuals within the regime or its institutions who believe that the current leadership is steering the whole ship towards a collision with the rocks, whereby all will drown unless they start to jump ship now. We may not be witnessing that now, but similar historical cases have all witnessed the “jump ship” phase at some point. When this happens, and perhaps soon, there will be some who think that the door is about to close, and that the regime has lost its chance, and that even if it remains it power it will become like the regime of Saddam Hussein in its final year.