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Al-Assad in Bab al-Aziziyah! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The appearance of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus amongst some of his supporters was a lot like Muammar Gaddafi appearing in Bab al-Aziziyah, or Green Square, to show that he is still the leader, and is still popular. However that is not the truth at all, firstly in the case of Gaddafi, which was proven over the days and events that followed, and now the same applies to al-Assad.

After al-Assad’s speech, in which he appeared to be begging and detached from reality, he emerged a day later among the crowds to prove his courage and leadership, but reality dictates that he came out because of his fear. His appearance only confirmed that he is no longer the President of Syria, but rather merely a man who has his followers. Here some may say: How come? The emergence of al-Assad in Umayyad Square – the day after his 99 minute-long speech – was an indication that al-Assad is the leader of a specific group, and not the President of Syria, and in turn he is contributing to isolating himself more and more. It is suffice to consider the pictures of his lengthy, boring speech at Damascus University, which did not show the attendance of any officials from his government, particularly the well-known faces, just as the images did not show anyone wearing military uniforms, such as high ranking officials. This is not to mention the fact that a panoramic view of the Umayyad Square rally shows that most of the audience there were security men, and that was apparent from their features and physique, and it was suffice to consider the amount of security personnel surrounding al-Assad’s wife at the time.

In al-Assad’s previous three speeches, and even in his latest interview with the US television network ABC, he spoke as the leader of the Syrians, although it was not convincing of course. However, the Umayyad Square scene was different, where he assured his followers that victory was near, he pledged to fight a broad spectrum of Syrian society, and he vowed victory over the Arabs and the West. He seemed as if he was talking from the position of Hassan Nasrallah rather than the President of Syria, and there is a big difference!

Of course, the question now is: When will al-Assad fall, or how? The answer to this question was summed up recently by the dissident Syrian Brigadier General Mustafa Ahmed al-Sheikh, who said that “large divisions, at the level of entire sectors, only happen when there is an open horizon and an officer or soldier feels that there is an international resolution to overthrow the regime”. He adds that “so far there has been no international resolution to overthrow the regime. That is why we have not seen high ranking officers or officials from important civilian posts defecting. However, if there was a buffer zone in place, most of the army would defect and the regime would fall faster”. This is what happened in the case of Libya, and the intention here is not to call for extensive NATO military participation, but what is required is an international resolution to de-legitimize the al-Assad regime. The first step towards doing so is to issue a UN resolution to provide buffer and no-fly zones, and then the divisions will grow within the Syrian army, especially as the number of dissidents so far, according to Brigadier General al-Sheikh, has reached 20,000. As soon as a buffer zone is in place, according to al-Sheikh, then senior officials will start to defect, which would in turn quickly bring down the regime.

This is what must be done now, since all other solutions have become ineffective, no matter what some have tried to say otherwise.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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