Today we can say that the moment of serious international action has been launched from Istanbul, in order to put an end to a terrible phase in our region’s history, specifically the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The “Friends of Syria” conference yesterday resembles a starting point to respond to the crimes of al-Assad and his forces, and likewise it is a clear message stressing the inevitable departure of the Syrian President.
Yesterday the Istanbul conference, with representatives from over 80 states, completely denounced the legitimacy of the al-Assad regime, whilst recognizing the Syrian National Council (SNC) as the sole representative of the Syrian people. The SNC immediately took the initiative to pledge to provide salaries for the Free Syrian Army (FSA), thus implying that it had achieved financial support. The other significant matter is that the Friends of Syria conference has demanded a specific timeline for [UN-Arab League peace envoy] Kofi Annan’s mission, so that it does not become an open-ended exercise. This in itself is a real slap in the face for the al-Assad regime that boasted by saying that there was no value in Annan’s mission, and that the regime had achieved victory on the ground; words that were reiterated by the regime’s henchmen, whether Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon or Jihad al-Maqdisi, the Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman.
Yesterday we heard Hillary Clinton say that al-Assad must step down, and we heard Recep Tayyip Erdoğan state that Turkey would not accept any plan that allows al-Assad to remain in power. The importance of the Turkish Prime Minister’s words in particular lies in the fact that he did not only say so publicly, but he also said the same [on his state visit] to Tehran. He did not hear any threats from the Iranians in response, but rather Iran replied by saying: “Well…who is the alternative to al-Assad?” This means that Tehran is now well aware that the al-Assad era is over.
Of course, these are all important messages that those around Bashar al-Assad will understand better than the President himself, who it is clear has become detached from reality. My own information indicates that the conference will conclude with the activation of a special action group to monitor Syrian affairs, a group that was decided upon at the Friends of Syria conference in Tunisia, which I wrote about at the time. This means that there will now be a special operations room, meaning that the coming movements will be specific, clear and very effective, designed to serve the interests of the rebels on the ground in all forms. When America says that it will support the rebels with communications technology rather than weapons, this is just as important, because this will help fight against the al-Assad regime that uses Iranian devices to limit the rebels communication ability and their movements.
Immediate action will also be undertaken by this special action group to reach out to both China and Russia, and this is important whatever Moscow’s current stance. Likewise, the conference will likely conclude with the formation of a “trust fund” to support the Syrians, with each state providing what it deems appropriate, which means that the door has now been opened for “effective” support.
Therefore it can be said that the Istanbul conference has been a success, and resembles a genuine slap in the face in response to the al-Assad regime’s recent bravado. It also means that the moment of serious action has been launched from Istanbul in order for the Syrians, and the region, to get rid of this criminal regime.
Now we will wait for concrete action…