Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Damascus: like Beirut’s southern suburbs | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Over forty years of al-Assad rule, whether we are talking about the rule of the father or the son, we have heard that Damascus is the capital of Arabism and the capital of the resistance. We have heard that the Damascus of al-Assad is the stronghold and garrison of the resistance, and other such lies and slogans. However on Tuesday, the picture was very different, for Damascus was more like the southern suburbs of Beirut, namely the suburbs of Hassan Nasrallah.

On Tuesday, the al-Assad regime mobilized its supporters – in a sad and pathetic scene – to meet the Russian envoys, namely the Russian Foreign Minister [Sergey Lavrov] and Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Director [Mikhail Fradkov]. The two Russian envoys received a hero’s welcome or a welcome that is more usually reserved for a head of state, not a foreign minister and intelligence chief. The question that immediately springs to mind is: what would have happened if the Russian President or Prime Minister had visited Damascus? Damascus welcomed the two Russian envoys in the same way that the southern suburbs of Beirut welcomed the Turkish Prime Minister or the Emir of Qatar or the Iranian President, following Israel’s war on Lebanon. The al-Assad regime wanted to thank the Russians utilizing its veto [against the UN Security Council draft resolution condemning the suppression and calling for an end to violence in Syria], which served as life support for the Bashar al-Assad regime which is politically deceased.

At the same time that al-Assad supporters filled the streets of the Syrian capital welcoming the Russian envoys in the manner of the southern suburbs, it was also announced that Iraq had agreed to serve as a conduit to facilitate the transfer of Syrian goods. It appears that al-Maliki is intent upon reviving the spirit of Saddam Hussein, but with a Shiite flavour. Therefore Baghdad also agreed to provide political life support to the al-Assad regime, which is politically deceased. This is contrary to the decision taken by the Gulf States to expel the al-Assad regime ambassadors from their territories. This is a decision that reflects the Gulf State’s siding with and supporting the unarmed Syrians against the tyrant of Damascus; whilst Baghdad has chosen to stand with al-Assad.

When we say that Damascus is like the southern suburbs today, this was after Syria was previously providing life support to the suburbs, however it is Baghdad which is now providing al-Assad with this same life support. Therefore Nasrallah’s suburbs have become more like a cave or den [in the absence of the Syrian life-support]. We therefore now see Hassan Nasrallah – on the same day – coming out to defend Hezbollah and himself, saying they do not traffic in drugs because Iran’s support of Hezbollah means they do not need money from anywhere else! This excuse is worse than any sin, for anybody who wants to be an Arab, and live in our region, cannot boast about Iranian, or Russian, support.

Therefore, one can only say: my God how things can change! For everybody is now in their natural scope, whether we are talking about al-Assad being provided political life support by Baghdad today, or Hassan Nasrallah saying that the source of his livelihood is Iran, not drugs, in the knowledge that Iran is in the midst of its worst ever political and economic crisis! All of this informs us that our region today is in an extremely volatile phase, accompanied by hurricanes and storms. What is certain is that our region will be better off without these extremist models, which are dependent upon political life support from Iran or Syria.