Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Lakhdar and Bashar | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks at the Opera House in central Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/SANA)

Bashar Al-Assad’s recent meeting with UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi was frank, clear and direct, at least according to media leaks that have been circulated. Perhaps the most important of these leaks was the report that Brahimi allegedly told the Syrian president he must leave, and the latter replied, completely denying the enormity of what is happening, by saying he would not leave even if Damascus burned down. From then onwards, Lakhdar Brahimi realized the man opposite him had “lost it completely” and that it would be futile to continue talking to him.

The truth is that in order to understand Assad’s stance one must first identify the psychological background of the man, from which all his strange and incomprehensible decisions stem from. Bashar Assad had a reclusive and shy nature as a child, and was born with a personality that can only be described as shaky and unstable. He was not his father’s first choice to lead the country, rather this was his elder brother Basil, but after the death of his brother Bashar came to prominence hastily, amid the resentment and objection of his father’s old guard.

Since the early days of the power-bequeathal project, Bashar Assad was dogged by comments such as “he is weak and not really in charge”, or, according to the old guard, “he is at the helm only to ensure the continuation of his father’s approach.” Some even said that genuine governance was actually in the hands “of his mother and uncles”, who controlled the political and economic reins, while others said “his brother Maher and brother in law Assef Shawkat are controlling power in a heated power struggle between them.” It was not long before rumors spread that Iran was actually controlling the strategic decision-making power in Syria. The relationship between the ruling regime in Syria and the revolutionary regime in Iran, which was somewhat timid during the reign of Hafez Assad, had transformed into a complete and clear alliance during Bashar’s rule, at the expense of all the empty slogans about resistance, opposition, Arabism and liberation.

All these rumors ultimately generated a major inferiority complex and over time Bashar Assad became consumed by a strong and over-exaggerated desire to prove himself. This desire has been manifested in death and destruction, in not listening to the voice of reason, and in considering surrender to be the weak option. These are all sensitive issues that consume Bashar’s mind; a mind full of the oppressive legacy of his father. Bashar Assad knows he has an ally in Russia; resistant to the West and seeking to obtain a price for Assad’s salvation, China, which is toeing the Russian line in order to preserve its diplomatic reputation against the Western tide, Iran, which is seeking to protect the sectarian project it established with Hafez Assad over a period of forty years, and finally Israel, which wants to secure its borders. Indeed, Israel has no cause to worry or lose sleep over Assad, for over the past decades the occupied Golan Heights have transformed into something akin to a quiet, picturesque Hawaii resort.

Therefore, through the systematic destruction of Syria and its cities, Bashar Assad is gambling that the price of him leaving, if it is to happen, will come after Syria has been completely destroyed and is in need of a great reconstruction project. This will keep the country and its future rulers occupied for decades, thus distracting them from other issues such as liberating the Golan Heights or supporting the resistance. The regime is doing its utmost to secure this great price, and there is no greater proof of this than the queues of military jets, tanks and missiles that are bombing Syrian cities and killing their residents. Meanwhile, the fact that the Syrian army have not fired a single shot in the Golan Heights proves that they are the “guardians of Bashar” rather than guardians of the homeland.

However, Syria is a wonderful country with wonderful people. From its pure soil greats have emerged such as Khalid ibn Al-Walid, Saladin, Yusuf Al-Azmah and other noble figures, because of whom Syrian blood is full of pride and dignity, freedom and honor. The Syrians will triumph eventually despite those who have betrayed them, sided with their enemies and helped to kill innocent civilians and destroy their homes. Whole nations have pounced upon them and betrayed them, although their intentions seemed peaceful and innocent in the past.

Increasing despotism, coupled with growing displays of tyranny and oppression, are sure signs of the end of a dictator’s rule. Bashar Assad, with all his depravity and insanity, has surpassed each of Hitler, Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi. The latter three eventually assumed their rightful place in dark history, and they are now waiting for Assad in the fire.

Lakhdar Brahimi proposed a final idea to save Assad, but Bashar preferred to pursue his thirst for blood, and the blood of his people in particular. We will see who laughs last.