Last Sunday, Damascus said it would prefer to keep the ball rolling with Washington, after the U.S. ambassador visited Hama last Friday. Then the Syrian regime sent its affiliates to attack the U.S. and French embassies in Damascus, so how can this be understood?
In order to easier understand the actions of the regime, I must share with the reader two important explanations I had previously heard from officials in the region, about the Syrian regime’s way of thinking. One day an Arab official told me “when contemplating the actions of the Syrian regime, do not think in terms of political logic…this is a mistake, but always try to think the way the regime thinks of itself, in order to understand its nature”, adding that “if the regime operates under the logic of the state, then the case with Syria would be different, or the case of the region with this regime”. Likewise, another senior Arab official, who has been dealing with the subject of Syria since the days Hafez al-Assad, told me “the best way to deal with the Syrian regime is to build on its mistakes, there are many, and the regime is its own worst enemy”.
By alluding to these two interpretations, we can say that the Syrian regime is no longer keen on the presence of the U.S. ambassador in Damascus, at least as much as the Syrian people and President Obama. With the presence of the U.S. ambassador, the Syrians have found protection from oppression, and this is what happened last Friday in Hama. Indeed, the Syrian opposition has now demanded that the rest of the foreign ambassadors do what their American and French counterparts have done. With regards to Obama, he is facing increasing pressure from congress to withdraw his Ambassador, along the lines of what George W. Bush did in 2005, when he withdrew his ambassador from Damascus after the assassination of Rafik Hariri. However, the Obama administration is defending the presence of its ambassador in Damascus, claiming it is the only chance to see what is really going on inside Syria, and this is true. Therefore the U.S. Ambassador has undertaken serious moves in Syria to prove a point to Congress, but he painfully stepped on the fingers of the Syrian regime.
Thus the reaction of the Syrian regime to the U.S. ambassador’s visit to Hama is natural, although late. This regime is suffering extensively from it failure to take timing into account. The visit of the U.S. ambassador to Hama is a slap in the face of the Syrian regime not externally, but internally, particularly in front of the army. Indeed there are certainly senior officers, whatever their sect, who do not like what is happening today. This is a matter that concerns the regime, especially considering that historically speaking, coups in Syria have traditionally been conducted on the basis of “maintaining dignity”, and so on.
The escalation of the Syrian regime today against the U.S. ambassador is merely evidence of the bewilderment of the regime, its weakness, and its fluctuating positions. As I have said previously, it is inconceivable that the U.S. ambassador would have gone to Hama without the knowledge of the Syrian regime, and it turned out that Damascus had been informed. However, the mass demonstrations that took place last Friday in Hama, and the Syrians welcoming the U.S. ambassador with flowers, caused the regime to lose its senses, as we see today. This is normal for a regime characterized by its many mistakes, far from having a real vision to deal with the crisis it is facing, which only increases its predicament.