Published — Monday 28 January 2013
Last update 28 January 2013 1:29 am
Any observer will know by now that the Assad’s reign is over. He may prolong or shorten the ending, and he has cost Syrians dearly until now, but Bashar Assad is no longer an option for all concerned in the crisis, except possibly Iran.
With all the internal destruction caused by the forces of the system in most Syrian cities, with all the blood that has flowed and continues to flow on the Syrian ground, and with the number of displaced people that increases on a daily basis, it is difficult to say that more people than Alawite sect, and some other minority groups, stand by the system. All outward appearances suggest that Assad has some support, but it is only support that is forcefully imposed on everyone because any other option would be costly for those who are searching for it.
What happened to Vice President Farouk Shara is proof to that. Shara, who was the most loyal ally of the system, transformed into to a political burden, since no system can eliminate him in the current circumstances, and he cannot even leave his home without being escorted. The companion of Assad, the father, has become a hostage of Assad Jr., and therefore we can say that half of the Syrian people, at the very least, desire the departure of the system, and the departure of Assad specifically, at any cost.
This is evident from the three indicators: Firstly, the size of military opposition that drained system militarily. Secondly, the political opposition at home, and specifically the National Coordination, does not see a solution without the fall of the regime. Thirdly, civilians, contrary to what was the case at the beginning of the Revolution, emerged, or rather were driven out by the cycle of events of the crisis. It is more likely that the majority of those at least have come to realize that the security solution chosen by the system has become expensive for at a humanitarian, economic, and political level for everyone. This solution revealed the bloody nature of the reign, and it will lead at the end only to further bloodshed and destruction.
On the outside, the Assad regime has lost all its functionality and legitimacy, regionally and internationally and this is evident from the fact that a number of Arab and Islamic countries, as well as foreign countries, have either demanded the departure of Assad or eliminated any legal or political justification for him remaining in power. In other words, Assad has become unable to win a political solution to the crisis and his asylum to and insistence on a bloody security solution since the beginning of the revolution is a burden on everyone.
Even Russia’s declared positions, which are sometimes contradictory, suggest that they are not with Assad, but are also not with the option of dropping him militarily without negotiations. This is because this option is expensive and will be long-standing. At the same time, Moscow recognizes that the dependence of Assad upon Shiite Iran, as well as “Hezbollah,” confirms the sectarian nature of the regime and its domestic and regional alliances, which would double the isolation of the reign at home and feed the resistance against it. Here, the elements of balance on the ground, which contributed to bringing the crisis to devastating standstill, are clear: The military capability of the system backed by Iran, but it lacks a popular base at home. Meanwhile, the resistance at home, which lacks the ability of a decisive military, enjoys support both from within and abroad. These elements specifically point out that the future of the regime has concluded, as it no longer has anyone to depend upon except Iran.
The arrival of the crisis to this juncture gives the US and Russian positions a decisive role. Add to that a struggling Arab position, which was expressed by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal last week when he said: “Arabs are in trouble in front of the Syrian situation.”
Seen from up close, Moscow understands that the survival of Assad in the end is no longer an option that can be bet upon, but they do not want to offer a position without negotiation. They realize that the fall of Assad represents significant losses in the region, which they are trying to reduce. They know that the West has strengthened its positions in North Africa after the fall of Qaddafi and now with the French intervention in Mali. Thus, the fall of Assad without arrangements will result in a removal of Russia from the Orient.
In addition to this, Moscow fears the repercussions of the fall of the Syrian regime against Iran and then on the surroundings. It is looking like a domino effect and this could boost Russian-Iranian cooperation. But the image of Iran after the fall of Assad, coupled with regional and international isolation, does not look very attractive. For its part, Tehran cannot ignore the fact that Assad’s phase is nearing its end, but why try to declare positions that emphasize support for Assad if it sees a red line? These attitudes do not necessarily reflect a disregard for reality but rather are an attempt to develop a bargaining chip on the table. No doubt that Tehran hopes to conserve Assad and is ready to pay the price to achieve this, but the reality of the crisis and the developments of events do not point to that direction.
What of the US position? It seems that the next Sectetary of State John Kerry is aware of Russia’s position. In a hearing to consolidate his nomination in the Senate, he said: “Bashar Assad believes that he will not lose and the opposition believes they will win.”
Ironically, the US position is not as troubled as other positions. Washington does not seem to be in a hurry whereas the Russians and the Iranians are pouring themselves into the Syrian crisis and this does not cost Washington anything.
Washington’s eye on Syria is not really on Damascus, but rather on Tehran. Syria is no longer what it was in the last century, and Washington’s position is clear so far: The departure of Assad and preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and after that, it will be ready to negotiate with Tehran on everything as it seems. The predicament of the Islamic Republic, by virtue of circumstance, is in abandoning Assad and in the abandonment of nuclear weapons to be able to reach an understanding with the Americans. Can it do that? Americans are afraid of the collapse of the state in Syria, as it will cost them dearly because Syria lies on Israel’s borders.
Thus, they cannot choose noninterference in this case. All this entails financial, military and political costs, and they therefore cannot do anything that might push things in the direction of the collapse of the Syrian state. What is strange is that the Arabs have played a major role in the arrival of the Syrian crisis to where it has reached today. Before Syria, the Arabs also failed in Palestine and Iraq. In short, the Syrian crisis is yet another Arab curse.