Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Paying the hundred pounds is the best option | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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I asked a notable Arab personality, whose opinions and vision I admire, about the situation in Syria, and the political outlook for the regime crisis there. He replied, saying that at the beginning of the Syrian crisis, there was a popular interpretation among Arab political circles, and some Western circles, suggesting that the Syrian regime was facing four options: The first was for the regime to undertake a rapid and extremely limited security operation, with deaths and injuries not exceeding 15 people, and limited arrests. The protest movement would subside and the regime would move beyond the crisis. The second option was for the regime to resort to a brutal security operation, with a large number of victims and arrests, after which the uprising would subside. The third and most serious option was to open an international conflict front with the Israelis from the Golan Heights, or southern Lebanon or Gaza. At this point I interrupted my source saying: has the Syrian regime not tried all three options and failed?

He laughed, saying “let me finish the fourth option, and then I will tell you a story about the first three, which will help you see the bigger picture”. He went on to say that the fourth option was for the regime to undertake genuine, radical reforms, changing both the form and content of the Syrian government. After this the regime would overcome the crisis, and Syria would change. The source added that this option is out of the question today, especially as the regime has already tried the first three options, and has not succeeded in significantly suppressing the Syrian protests. The regime fluctuates between dialogue and repression, and international pressure is rising, especially after the recent border incident with Israel, exploiting the anniversary of the Nakba.

My respected source then returned to say: “Now let me tell you a story about the three options: Once upon a time an old man committed an offense requiring him to stand trial. The man went to court and looked at the judge who said: “what you did requires punishment”. The man replied to the judge, “Remember I am elderly”. Then the judge looked at the man and said to him: “you will choose between three punishments: pay a hundred gold pounds, receive a hundred lashes, or eat a hundred extremely hot chili peppers!” The man told the judge: “With regards to the gold pounds, forget about it completely, there will be no negotiation or discussion. By virtue of my age, my skin cannot bear lashings, so I will ask for the peppers, and this will be my fate”.

My source went on to say: “The old man began to devour the peppers until he reached number 60, when his eyes turned red and his head flared up, and he told the judge: “These peppers are going to kill me. Let me receive the lashes, they are easier.” The judge agreed, but when the man reached forty lashes he told the judge “Enough! I will die, I am an old man”. The judge asked him “What do you want me to do with you?” The man replied “I will pay the hundred pounds!” Here my source commented: “the man ended up paying a hundred pounds to avoid all his other misfortunes, and we can say here that one hundred pounds is [a metaphor for] reform”.

This matter applies to Syria, Yemen and Libya. Gaddafi has tried the peppers and the lashings, and is on his way to paying the hundred pounds. This is what we have seen also in Tunisia and Egypt, especially with what happened to the Mubarak family, where one can only wonder: why do they do this to themselves and their citizens?