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Assad Begs for Dialogue | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem speaks during a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on February 25, 2013. (AFP)

We wondered whether Moaz Alkhatib, head of the Syrian National Coalition, was being shrewd or reckless with his call for dialogue with the Assad regime. Events today suggest that he was indeed shrewd, for the Assad regime has fallen into the trap of calling for a dialogue that it outright rejected in the past. Through the words of Walid Moallem in Moscow, Bashar Al-Assad is now begging for talks, even with the armed opposition.

So what has changed for Assad to come forward now begging for dialogue with the opposition? It is clear that there are many factors, the most important of which being the advances of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) on the ground, and its relentless persistence. Likewise, recent indicators have exposed blatant Iranian interference in Syria, alongside Hezbollah. The international community now fears the spread of terrorism because of Assad’s crimes and Iran’s interference, and this has finally prompted the world to act. It seems that the most important step in this regard has been, or will be, to allow the flow of quality weapons to the Syrian rebels, which was revealed recently by the Washington Post. Even though the newspaper did not announce who will actually be behind the supply of these weapons, it does not require a great deal of intelligence to work it out. What is more important is that armed reinforcement has now become a reality, and this will become apparent in the coming days.

All this represents what I have always described as the only language Assad understands, namely the language of force and action, not words. This language will be consolidated further after the Rome conference, especially if Washington is serious, with US Secretary of State John Kerry going on record saying that he is coming to Rome for decisions on Syria, not simply to talk. All this is prompting Bashar Assad now to beg for dialogue with the opposition, even the armed elements such as the FSA which he formerly described as terrorists. Now we are even hearing Sergei Lavrov telling Moallem in Moscow that the Syrian opposition are wise, while in the past the entire revolution was being described as a terrorist movement by both Moscow and Assad.

These developments are not the result of a sense of guilt on Assad’s part, or a sense of responsibility on the part of the Russians, rather they are the result of what is happening on the ground and the growing international momentum towards Syria. The Russians are aware that the new Obama administration has now been completed, and there are benefits between Washington and Moscow that the Russians cannot sacrifice in favor of Assad, especially as his regime is crumbling. This is not to mention the embarrassment suffered by Moscow after Khatib called for dialogue with Assad, who then manipulated the call as usual but now comes begging for dialogue after it is too late.

Therefore, the most important thing in Syria today is to continue arming the FSA, and to begin developing the features of the post-Assad phase. This is a task for the Syrian opposition itself and not just the international community, which in turn must also not waste any more time and effort in alleged “dialogue” unless it is coupled with the announcement of Bashar Assad’s departure. Apart from the fact it is time wasting, it is giving Assad a chance he does not deserve. The Syrians have suffered enough over the past two years from Assad’s terrorism, and his regime is facing an outright collapse today.