End of Assad: Russians and Iranians plan his departure
Conventional Arab wisdom holds that it is unwise to place too many demands on opposing parties when searching for a solution to an impasse. Dictators, on the other hand, believe that it is necessary to unleash the regime’s power on its people, and present options that the people can wrongly regard as their hopes. These days, however, such traditional wisdom does not reflect reality anymore. The street has found its voice as have even martyrs. That said, Bashar Assad of Syria has abandoned all values related to unity and pan-Arabism and has instead retreated to an increasingly isolated Alawite mountain. Needless to say, an Alawite state cannot survive as there are no objective conditions for even its initial establishment.
In 1996, Iran’s Hashemi Rafsanjani along with a number of other clergymen paid a visit to Syria. The visit resulted in a link between Nusayris and Twelver school of Shiite Islam. The same took place when Tehran forged a link between the Houthis — a Zaidi Shiite insurgent group operating in Yemen — and the Twelver school of Shiite Islam. Perhaps, one day Iran may try to link the Twelver school of Shiite Islam and Red Indians in the America! In essence, Tehran has been looking for a religious basis to interfere in the internal affairs of other states. Since the 1996 visit, Iran has interfered in Syria. This has confused the Syrian Ba’thists who are supposed to be engaged in conflict with the Persians (an historical conflict indeed) and who are really in conflict with Turkey, which still occupies the Sanjak of Alexandretta. Nonetheless, the regime has bypassed this reality in its bid to rein and rule.
Tehran was quick to put forward a six-point plan to guarantee a safe exit for Assad within the context of parliamentarian elections, a government with full power, release of detainees and reconstruction of Syria. The initiative was put forward as if no bloodshed had taken place and as if the bloodshed is not a part of the transformations overtaking Syria.
At the beginning of the crisis, I met a Syrian intellectual who is a friend of President Assad himself. He told me that he had spoken with a high senior official in Syria. The official told him that the regime would be able to control the situation even if it were to entail the deaths of some 10,000 Syrians. The sacrifice has reached some 57,000 to date, in addition to thousands of detentions, billions of dollars worth of damage, and the destruction of Syria. That said, Deputy President Farouq Shara is in denial when he says that the conflict has no winner or loser and the one way to stop the fighting is to come up with a political settlement. The problem is that the Shara’s talk coincided with a similar speech delivered by Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah in which he urged a political settlement that would leave Assad in place. Given the state of affairs in Syria, this, of course, is an untenable approach.
The friend of President Assad with whom I spoke says that the regime has come to an end and that its ultimate demise is inevitable within three months. The primary barriers to Assad’s quick fall are the repercussions of his fall on Hezbollah, Iran, Al-Maliki of Iraq, and Russian President Putin. These states will not succeed in keeping Assad in office, as there is no possibility of restoring a regime that has cracked down so brutally on its own people. Also the support of Iran, Iraq, Russia, and China for the current regime could well backfire on these countries as the Syrian people will not forget their role in supporting the regime in its slaughter of innocent Syrians.
Just a few days ago, it was learned that Russia was trying to push a political initiative through Turkey. As we know, Turkey, like Iran, has regional interests to defend. It just signed a $ 100 billion agreement with Russia, a deal that came as a result of the situation in Syria. Even Farouq Shara — who was absented by a presidential decree — appeared again with a presidential decree to promote the no win, no lose theory. If anything, it exposes the weakness of the regime and its imminent collapse.
The Turkish-Russian deal lends credence to the talk of Assad’s departure in the first three months of next year. But the belief is that both Iran and Syria welcome any time that can be bought to modify reality on the ground. Additional time, however, may give Assad a free hand to use more lethal weaponry, including chemical weapons. And yet, in a recent secret security meeting, Assad is reported to have talked about the weakness of his side in holding on and that each extra day is not in his favor. For this reason, he is looking for an exit that guarantees no legal prosecution.
Now, some are even talking about a Russian-Turkish dialogue to secure Assad’s safe departure for Venezuela. All of Syria’s neighbors confirm that Assad’s control on the ground is all but gone and it is obvious that the national coalition has started organizing itself.
The Syrian regime tried to defame the Syrian opposition by accusing it of links to groups outside of Syria and with collaboration with foreign intelligence agencies. But at the same time, Assad harbored some fears of Russia and Iran as the Russians had sold out Saddam before as did the West with Mubarak. He also knows that Iran is holding on to Syrian and not necessarily to Assad and that Iran will not mind a deal with the West even if Assad is the victim of that deal. For this reason, Assad sees that his strength derives from his internal situation and he knows that there is a huge price tag for people giving up on him.
The Syrian Free Army and its leadership know how much support Assad has lost inside Syria. The leadership of the Free Army plans to control the key points of authority and to transfer the battle to Damascus, especially once control of the airport is established. Senior officials coming from Syria confirm that all in Damascus are awaiting Assad’s fall. They also believe that Assad may resort to chemical weapons. A Syrian poet confirms that social forces in Syria agreed to form a provisional local administration to secure the non-use of force following Assad’s fall.
The friend of the Syrian president also said that the Iranian-Russian goal is in line with that of Assad himself in supporting internal division. Iran and the Syrian government support the PKK and there is an Iranian plan to set up an Alawite army in the hope that that the Alawites in Turkey and Lebanon will join it. Russia is expected to support an Alawite state that stretches to Latikia, where the Russians have a sea base. Equally important, the external countries have their interests, too, even if they are at the expense of the Syrian people.
Finally, the diversity of the opposition will be the guarantee for Syria’s unity and for putting an end to Russian and Iranian dreams. Iran has already moved some of its files to its embassy in Lebanon and the Russian embassy keeps its files in its base in Tartous. Neither country, it seems, is to back Assad for long.