07/10/2011

Foiled ambitions of the Syrian revolution

More than ten years ago, Bashar al-Assad crushed with extreme violence hopes for liberalization of society, led by Syrian intellectuals that emerged after the death of his father, Hafez Al-Assad. The Damascus Spring marked the first premise of the revival of the Syrian people. Today, the new Syrian spring, as part of the Arab spring, has a different scale, insomuch that hushing up it is not an option.

The Syrian crisis is just as complex as frustrating for the international community. However, it seems that the revolution in Syria is at a significant turning point. There are several points to consider: first, the unification of the different political forces of opposition to the regime in a Syrian National Council (CNS) on October 2nd. This a strong signal that allows the institutionalization of this struggle for democracy and a unique representation for Liberals, Islamists (including the Muslim Brotherhood) and nationalists, the three traditional forces in opposition. Then, there is the setting up of two armed groups in opposition – the Free Officers Movement and the Free Syrian Army- composed of seditious soldiers (10,000 according to U.S. authorities). For now, it is impossible to know to what extent the actions of these armed groups are relevant. But even if the demonstrations are mostly peaceful, the idea of ​​an armed revolution seems to be gaining traction.
In addition, now that the isolation of Bashar al-Assad on the international stage is total since Turkey, an ally of Syria, decided to break off all dialogue with the country, the Syrian leader will no longer backtrack. Now that Turkey has nostalgia for its imperial past and  Mr. Erdogan is supporting the Arab revolutions, the new Turkish foreign policy arouses unprecedented keen interest in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, the response of the international community, is much less popular in the region since the refusal of China and Russia to take targeted sanctions against the Syrian regime. The double veto of Moscow and Beijing to the draft resolution against the Assad regime is convincing, just a little more, the Syrian people of the inability  of diplomatic tools to resolve the crisis. The European Union, for its part, has taken a series of sanctions since last May (embargo on arms imports, oil, freezing targeted Syrian assets including those of the president himself) against the regime while calling Bachar Al-Assad to step aside from power. Sanctions are unlikely to meet the desired objectives without support of the Security Council. The secretary general of the Arab League proposed a peace plan to the Syrian regime on September 10 including a political dialogue with the opposition and in-depth institutional reforms, while keeping the president in power until the end of his term. This proposal was inconclusive down to here. There is no need to recall that there would be no peaceful way of getting out of this crisis.

Given this situation, what should be done? Should we settle for the status quo at the hands of an increasing bloody repression having already where more than 2900 civilians were killed (according to UN estimates) while the number of Syrian refugees continues to grow?
In fact, the options of the western powers are very limited. For the EU, a symbolic first step would be the establishment of a formal political dialogue with the Syrian National Council recently created. Knowing that the question of an official recognition is in the hands of the twenty-seven who are not all willing to gamble on the future. A second way forward is to provide support to Syrian civilians in order to prevent a significant humanitarian disaster.

Everything seems to be related to the will of this man, who was not fated to take the power. Yet he has shown some aptitudes by multiplying the policies of censorship, repression and muzzling of the national and international opposition. Bashar al-Assad appears again and again untouchable. Just as there seemed to be, six months ago, Ben Ali, Mubarak and Gaddafi …

Dalila Bernard