Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

After al-Assad | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Should we still concern ourselves with the question: Will the Bashar al-Assad regime fall or not? All the local, regional and international facts suggest that the fall is inevitable, even if it is delayed. It is enough for any neutral analyst to compare between the rising chart of the revolution’s success and the regime’s tumbling graph to conclude the same result. In short, the conflict between the Syrian revolution, with its strong public dimension, and the crumbling al-Assad regime is like a bout between two boxers, one a burly young man of high spirits and the other an elderly man, weak in strength and morale, relying on his history and unaware that time has eroded his body, strength and capabilities. Yes, on the surface the two boxers are doing battle and scoring points in their favor, but the vast majority of neutral observers expect the knockout blow to come at any moment and for the veteran boxer to suddenly collapse. Those who are watching the course of events are witnessing powerful punches being delivered by the revolutionaries against the regime, and the explosion targeting the regime’s crisis management cell was a massive blow but not the knockout punch. Hence the bout is ongoing while the young boxer waits for the right moment to deliver the final shot and bring everything crashing down.

So why do the regime and its allies – Iran, Hezbollah, Russia and China – insist on continuing to fight a losing battle, especially as they see the regime falling apart day after day, becoming increasingly isolated in the Arab and Islamic sphere, with an economy on the brink of collapse? The regime’s downfall has already begun; the rebels effectively control the majority of Syrian territory and a number of border crossing points. Having examined the analysis I can only find one possible explanation, although it seems very crude, and that is a desire to prolong the regime’s period of survival and nothing more.

So, those concerned with the Syrian issue should not be dragged into the trap of wondering whether the regime will fall or not, rather what we need now is an urgent focus on the analysis of possible scenarios after the fall of the al-Assad regime, and to prepare well for these scenarios. Just as Bashar al-Assad said – and for once the liar was right – Syria is not Tunisia, Libya or Egypt. Al-Assad was wrong to believe his regime was different in the sense that it was not capable of falling like other regimes around it, but it is true that the situation in Syria has complex and interwoven local, regional and international dimensions that are quite different from Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. These dimensions have certainly played an active part in prolonging the conflict, and a comprehensive awareness of these complex entanglements will help pave the way towards shaping the era after the regime falls.

The entanglements within the Syrian opposition are no less complex than the regional and international intricacies with regards to the Syrian crisis. Working to reduce the differences between the opposition or trying to merge it into one cohesive entity, is one of the first priorities that should be conducted in parallel with liberating the Syrian people from their brutal regime. The success of the post-Assad stage is tied to the success of efforts to reduce the gap and acrimony between the influential parties within the Syrian opposition: The National Coordination Committee for the Forces of Democratic Change (NCC), the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The latter in particular will have a strong and influential position in shaping the post-Assad phase. It is resisting the fierce and bloodthirsty regime from the inside, rather than from hotel lobbies and under the camera flashes of the world’s media, and hence the FSA will provide the nucleus of Syria’s future army and will have a prominent voice in the political arena.

At this moment in time the sectarian dimension requires our full attention. One potential scenario after the fall of al-Assad is that the country will be divided along ethnic and religious grounds, with members of the Alawite sect being pressured to resort to their strongholds in the western coastal mountains to establish a state there that controls most of the coastline. This potentially devastating scenario means that the Syrian forces must work to thwart the regime’s efforts in this regard, by assuring the minority Alawite community – without the use of sectarian discourse – that their needs will be met in the post-Assad phase. Not every member of the Alawite sect is a supporter of Bashar al-Assad, and likewise there are al-Assad supporters who are not Alawites, but who are simply concerned for the state of the country should the regime fall.