The repeated question: who is in charge in Syria? Is it the President [Bashar al-Assad], or his brother [Republican Guard commander Maher al-Assad], or the political old guard? Everybody is asking this question. There are those asking out of skepticism or suspicion, and those asking out of mere curiosity, whilst others are asking this with a view to questioning whether it is logical for a young, well-educated president to act in the same manner that Bashar al-Assad is acting today against his own people, with shells striking the city of Hama every 10 seconds?
The reality is that this question – which the Bashar al-Assad regime succeeded in exploiting in order to gain room for [political] maneuvering and extortion – is no longer relevant. When we say that that this question is no longer relevant, this is for one single and important reason, namely that the Syrian revolutionaries have moved onto the next stage. Indeed, the Syrian revolutionaries have now begun to chant “the people want the fall of the regime”, which is to say the entire Syrian regime, not just Bashar al-Assad. If we wanted to try to understand the situation through the slogans being used by the Syrian people, then they are also chanting “we do not love you…you and your party, leave us alone!” Therefore, it is clear that questions about who is truly in charge in Syria today are no longer relevant.
However, so long as there are those interested in asking this question, then the answer is that all the facts on the ground indicate that it is the president [Bashar al-Assad] himself who is in charge in Syria today. Anybody monitoring the situation in Syria since al-Assad first came to power will find that the regime’s mistakes, internal and external, follow a similar pattern. Externally, the regime’s mistakes erupted and continued since al-Assad made the most critical mistake, namely forcibly extending the term of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, and the subsequent events including the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The same applies to [Syria’s relations with] Iraq following the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime, as well as Syria’s relations with Iran, particularly after the [Syrian] regime threw itself into the arms of Tehran, which came at the expense of Syria’s relations with the most influential Arab states, and despite the slogan of “Arabism” that the Damascus regime continues to repeat. It is sufficient to review the destructive efforts exerted by the al-Assad regime to nullify and invalidate the Arab Peace Initiative put forward by King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz. What is strange is that Israel remained silent on this initiative, as the Damascus regime’s efforts to thwart the Arab Initiative excused Tel Aviv from entering the political fray in this regard.
As for Syria’s internal affairs, mistakes also continued in this regard. Al-Assad first came to power with promises of reform that were not subsequently implemented, whilst the Syrian regime continued to imprison a huge number of people, which is a state of affairs that led to this unprecedented popular uprising. Despite all of this, the Syrian regime continues to make the same mistakes, making promises that remain unfulfilled, and even if some promises [of reform] are implemented, they are not implemented fully. This is a continuance of the political maneuvering and extortion that has not changed over the past 10 years. The Syrian people know their country and their regime, so how clever and insightful was the banner that the people of Homs raised and which read “A message to al-Assad: we will drove your troops out of Homs and all other Syrian cities in the same manner as they were driven out of Lebanon.” This means that the Syrian people today are convinced that al-Assad himself is responsible for the mistakes that have been made, just as he was responsible for the critical mistake in Lebanon, namely the withdrawal of Syrian troops in this humiliating manner. Therefore the people of Homs reminded al-Assad that his troops will withdraw from Syrian cities today in the same manner that they previously withdrew from Lebanon.
Therefore, we must not be over-concerned with the question of “who is in charge of Syria?” For the facts are clear, and the people who are most aware of this are the Syrian citizens who chant “we do not love you…you and your party, leave us alone!”