The Assad regime has allowed the opposition to meet in a hotel Damascus to discuss the situation in the country, its future, and the future of reform there. Yet the doubts surrounding this step are sizeable, and justified. The meeting comes with the approval of the regime, so is this meeting a lifeline for the regime, or is it merely an attempt to divide the opposition internally?
I am convinced that the Assad regime is trying to find a way out of its impasse, both internally and externally, using all its tricks. This becomes clear especially when considering that none of the regime’s promises, since the outbreak of the uprising, have been implemented. To understand the Syrian regime’s tactics, we must be aware of an important point; the Assad regime also resorted to the opposition in 2002 after coming to power. President al-Assad met one day with a leading dissident, asking for the opposition to meet and provide a road map, or proposals for reform, which they deemed necessary for the country. Subsequently, the Syrian opposition met and drafted proposals, first and foremost the elimination of government corruption. The proposals were then handed over to President al-Assad, but what was the result?
The result was that members of the opposition were imprisoned, including the dissident whom al-Assad requested a meeting with. Some of them were released from prison in 2005, and at this time the President used them to consolidate his latest message, that he wanted the legitimacy enjoyed by his father within Syria, and he wanted to appear before the Syrians as a man of reform and development, and not just as a president who inherited his position.
Today the regime is using the opposition again, not because it believes in reform and the legitimate demands of the Syrian citizens – if it believed that then it would not continue with the murder, repression, arbitrary detention and displacement – but rather the regime is using the internal opposition these days to give itself legitimacy outside Syria. The regime also tried to incense the Turks across the border, along the lines of its provocation policy which it has mastered externally. But, as we said that time, the regime was not successful with the strategy of “I’ll do this and take that”. On a weekly basis the international community struck Syria with the hammer of sanctions, leaving only its petroleum exports. If the regime continues to stand, rumors suggest that this sector could be next.
Therefore, the predicament of the al-Assad regime today is sizeable for many reasons, most importantly, consider what if the opposition proposes all it wants, and the international community persists? The demonstrations last Friday were the same as they are every Friday, continuing to reject the regime, whilst the regime countered this as usual with killing and torture. What is the stance of the opposition now? What is the position of the regime and the masses which reject it, along with the opposition which met in a hotel? Here is a predicament for the regime which is hard to resolve, both internally and externally. It is the regime itself which described the opposition as foreign conspirators. It is the regime itself which has forced the father to abandon his sons, and the son to abandon his father. It is suffice here to consider the father of the murdered child Hamza al-Khatib, who went on to praise the Syrian President in a depressing manner. After that how can the world believe the Syrian account of events, especially as nothing tangible has been achieved on the ground?
In summary: the regime is in a very difficult position, by virtue timing and its structure: If it carries out reform, it will fall, if the status quo remains, it will fall, and if it deviates further, it will also fall. Thus the regime is facing a great predicament, and let’s see what happens in the coming days.