At a time when the Russians say that the best way to deal with the Syrian revolution is dialogue between the opposition and the government, the New York Times newspaper revealed that Washington has begun planning for the post-Assad phase, so how can we interpret this?
In reality, following the experiences in Saddam’s Iraq and Gaddafi’s Libya, and Moscow’s stances with regards to both, perhaps it is possible to say that the world should actually prepare for the post-Assad phase. The Russian interpretation of events in our region, specifically regarding authoritarian regimes, has never been accurate. Likewise, Russian stances always reverse at the last minute, after those regimes face a disaster, and the most prominent example here is Iraq. If the Russians, and the French at the time as well, had sufficiently realized the gravity of Saddam’s regime, and been told that no one could defend it, then maybe – and we say maybe – they would have had a different stance towards the dictatorship.
The story is not Saddam Hussein’s regime of course, but rather it is about repeating errors, and building on the Russian positions, and this is what we have in front of us today in the Syrian revolution. The al-Assad regime’s crisis is not external, nor is it not a crisis of fundamentalists or armed groups as the regime likes to portray; rather it is a genuine, internal Syrian crisis. It would not have lasted so long if it weren’t genuine, especially with the regime’s brutal repression. Russia’s stance today is like a drug for the al-Assad regime, which will not wake up until the moment of its great downfall, which the Americans, along with the Turks, deem to be inevitable. In particular, we see the Turks accusing the al-Assad regime of lying, having not instigated any of the promises it made during a six-hour meeting in Damascus.
When I say that the Russian stance is like a drug, it is because it prolongs the duration of the Syrian crisis by giving the regime hope that nothing will be done at the international level. This is not true, as all indications suggest that there is an international surge coming, and likewise an Arab one. There are even signs of internal escalation, through the Syrians themselves, and here it is suffice to note the increasing number of defections from the army, rapidly and clear for all to see. Externally, whether in the Arab or Western arena, the diplomatic escalation continues, and here it is suffice to note the conflicting and contradictory statements towards the situation in Syria, issued from the al-Assad regime’s only ally, Iran. These statements clearly suggest that Tehran itself is no longer certain whether the al-Assad regime is sustainable, or whether to prepare for the post-Assad phase. Here it is enough to consider the story published by the Iranian Fars news agency, quoting the Deputy Secretary of Hezbollah, where he completely denied the intervention of the party in Syria, but instead considered the charges false and unjust. This is despite the fact that Hassan Nasrallah, a few weeks before, had boasted of his relations with the al-Assad regime, and the need to protect it. Hezbollah has used its leader’s statements as an indication of its guardianship, but not specifically in defense of the regime in Damascus. The party did not want to seem the only one defending the al-Assad regime, thus it took advantage of its leader and his statements.
To conclude, I would say that the all indications suggest that the region as a whole is preparing for the post-Assad phase, whatever the Russians say.