Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Who benefits from Assad remaining in power? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A father reacts after the death of two of his children, whom activists said were killed by shelling by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, at al-Ansari area in Aleppo in this January 3, 2013 file photograph. (REUTERS/Muzaffar Salman/Files)

As recent events have shown us, sectarian bias has no limits in the Arab world. The peoples of the region still view despots and radicals selectively. While sometimes they see Saddam Hussein as a bloody Ba’athist thug, they can then suddenly change their minds and maintain he was a martyr who heroically defended the eastern “front” of the Arab world. This is despite the fact that Saddam invaded and occupied a neighboring country, Kuwait, and killed his own people using chemical weapons, in addition to his other crimes.

However when you try to convince people that Bashar Al-Assad—a brutal Ba’athist thug who killed his own people with chemical weapons and occupied Lebanon—is just another Saddam Hussein, they reject his premise and insist that the comparison does not hold water.

The same selective method is used when they talk about terrorist organizations. There are people who link terrorism and Takfirism to certain groups only, such as Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS,) Al-Nusra Front and other Salafist and Jihadist groups, ignoring Hezbollah, the Badr Organization, the Quds Force, and the Mahdi Army. All of these organizations and militias are the same; they are Takfirist and terrorist elements that accuse those who oppose them of apostasy as well as capitalize on and rejoice in killing their opponents.

Any counter-argument is nothing but a miserable and shameful attempt to distort the clear reality on the ground. This is nothing more than promoting a confused and narrow vision.

This is key to the survival of bloody and criminal regimes such as the Assad administration. In fact, there are several forces that have an interest in Assad remaining in power.

Iran spent a long time raising and then subjugating the Assad regime, particularly during the era of Bashar Al-Assad. It also spent large amounts of money on it and diverted it from the nationalist and pan-Arabist slogans it has grown accustomed to using to cover its terrible sectarianism which has now been completely exposed.

The same applies to Hezbollah that views Syria as a country where they can expand their influence and presence in a simple and practical manner.

As for Russia, it views Syria as a foothold for grander plans in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, taking advantage of geopolitical circumstances that might not be repeated in the near future, not to mention the presence of weak and reluctant leadership in the western camp.

The Assad regime constitutes a golden opportunity to Russian and Western intelligence that want to attract all Jihadist forces (pro and anti-Assad ones) to one geographical spot, Syria and thus save themselves the trouble of pursuing these groups. By doing so they achieve what Israel wants; namely, to get rid of all sides by encouraging them to fight and provide them with money, weapons, and information.

On the other hand, Israel will be able to keep an eye on its “hidden ally,” Assad. The reality is that the Assad regime has protected the borders of Israel by ensuring peace and quiet on the Golan Heights. Assad has prevented any sort of disturbance—let alone resistance or military activities—from happening in the area.

Strangely enough, no senior Israeli politician has issued a statement demanding the outright removal of the Assad regime. On the contrary, both the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the chief of Mossad have tacitly said that they would prefer Assad to remain in power as this would guarantee greater security for Israel, particularly given the alternative.