Anybody who is monitoring the manner in which Bashar al-Assad is managing the Syrian crisis will no doubt recognize that the tyrant of Damascus is handling the battle to remain in power – in precisely the same manner that the al-Assad regime – both that of the father and the son – managed the situation in Lebanon over the past 3 decades. What is striking is that the al-Assad regime is now not only doing this throughout Syria, but within Damascus itself!
Yesterday, Reuters published a frightening news report [Minority militias stir fears of sectarian war in Damascus] about the spread of armed militias in Damascus. These militias represent all sects and this includes the Christian, Druze and Alawite communities. This report talked about the spread of check-points and so-called “lijan shaabiya” [popular committees] throughout Damascus suburbs that are loyal to the al-Assad regime, which for its part is providing these militias with arms. The al-Assad regime is doing this in order to incite division between Damascus’s sectarian communities, attempting to convince them to accept the delusion that the Syrian opposition and revolutionaries are nothing more than Sunni terrorists supported by foreign parties. The Reuters report even revealed that some of these youth in the lijan shaabiya have become aware that the people they are killing are political activists and opposition figures, not armed fighters! All of this is taking place within the Syrian capital today at the hands of the al-Assad regime which is inciting division and sectarian schism within Damascus itself simply in order to survive and remain in power. The regime began to pursue this policy after the revolutionaries began their final battle with al-Assad in the two most important Syrian cities, namely the economic capital, Aleppo, and the political capital, Damascus.
So after Bashar al-Assad has destroyed all of Syria, he is today fighting a battle to tear apart the social fabric of Damascus. This is precisely what al-Assad – the father and the son – did in Lebanon over the past three decades. In Lebanon, al-Assad managed the conflict by utilizing deception, intimidation and liquidation; by inciting each side to fight the other, arming one side against the other and entrenching sectarian division from the standpoint of “divide and conquer”. He managed Lebanon in collusion with groups that were created to implement these objectives, most prominently Hezbollah, which is pursuing this politically. The al-Assad regime also utilized some Palestinians for the same reasons, whether we are talking about groups in the refugee camps or the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Hamas movement. It also utilized the media, and money, in Lebanon in the worst possible manner. The reality is that the al-Assad regime corrupted everything in Lebanon; the organizations, the leadership and the political parties. Whilst today, we are seeing al-Assad do precisely the same thing in the Syrian capital, Damascus. This means that Bashar al-Assad himself is aware that the end is fast approaching and that he is facing the inevitable. However what he is doing in the capital today also means that the longer al-Assad’s ouster is delayed, the more difficult it will be to heal the tattered social fabric of Damascus and indeed Syria itself. Therefore, what al-Assad is doing today is no less dangerous than dispersing chemical weapons, which is an issue of grave concern to the West, to the point that they have declared this a red line; threatening al-Assad with military intervention in Syria should he transgress this.
The tearing apart of the social fabric of Syria – and that of Damascus today – in the manner revealed by the Reuters report, means that there will be great damage at a future stage, which may be prolonged, whether for Syria or Lebanon or Iraq or the region as a whole, whilst Turkey will also not be isolated from this. This all requires international action, involving the West and the Arab world, in order to accelerate the ouster of al-Assad, whose fall is inevitable. If the Arabs, and the international community, do not want Syria to follow the Lebanese or Iraqi model then they must take action now, along the lines of the effective and passionate French diplomacy.