Repositioning on the Threshold of the "Damascus Battle"!
Both the Western and Russian sides know that change from within - after a full year of peaceful demonstrations followed by violence and killing - is as impossible as Syria's return to the way it was prior to February 15, 2011. The regime in Syria is no different than its counterparts in Iraq under Saddam and Libya under Gaddafi, and no one can argue about the fact that change in Baghdad and Tripoli would not have taken place had it not been for the American and European intervention. The alignment behind the mission of the international-Arab envoy is similar to the alignment behind the Arab League action a few months ago, which spares both sides from their true political and moral responsibilities. Consequently, one is blaming the regime and the other the opposition which failed to unify its ranks, while disregarding the fact that this opposition echoed the internal action that will not stop, whether the opposition should become more divided, or should unify in one body and agree over a clear document or political project.
It is as if there is a decision or an external settlement which has not yet ripened, so as not to go as far as saying a conspiracy to draw a new map for the entire region. Sudan is an example bringing back the memory of the "good old days" in Southern Yemen and activating a regionalism in Libya whose pages should have been folded with the unification of the country's three provinces around sixty years ago. This is also not far from what happened and is happening every day in Iraq between its provinces, ethnicities and denominations, and the regional and sectarian talk emerging throughout the region.
Although it is not true that the decision to induce change in Damascus has not been issued within the concerned and influential capitals, what is true is that the regime is turning into a burden on all the sides, and is provoking an international consensus over its confrontation - sooner or later - by continuing to play on the paradoxes domestically and abroad, and using time to unleash its military and security machine. What is also true is that those wishing to topple it, as well as those wishing to leave this up to the country's population, fear that the regime's collapse will be followed by the collapse and dismantlement of the state. Moreover, a year into the crisis, it is clear that the two conflicting sides did not hesitate to commit serious human rights violations rising up to the level of war crimes. Hence, the international players do not want more bloodshed in the event of total collapse or seeing this blood flowing across the border, in light of the mounting tensions in Iraq, the concealed conflict and the pressures prone to explode in Lebanon and the situation in Jordan among other close and distant neighboring states.
The predicament so far lies in the impossibility to topple the regime without causing the toppling of the entire state. Indeed, throughout forty years, the regime stripped Syria of any political action, and used most social, economic and cultural activities to serve its interests. This is why the absence of an internal command in the ranks of the oppositionists to lead the action is not odd, along with the absence of leaders, coalitions or forces that could constitute a headline for the warring parties domestically and abroad or capable of drawing up a common roadmap as it happened in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Even the opposition abroad - a year into the crisis - seems unable to catch up with the domestic opposition. And in the quasi-absence of any real cracks in the military bloc that constitutes the cornerstone of the regime, the armed powers fighting the official apparatuses seem scattered and without any clear command or reference. Anarchy is thus prevailing over the opposition, and it feels that the international community has let it down, even blaming its shortcomings on its division and the difficulty of wagering on it during the transitional phase, let alone following the departure of the regime.
Moreover, it is feared that with the spread of the sectarian and denominational militias, that these militias will continue to fight after the fall of the regime as it is the case in Libya where the inter-tribal conflict is obstructing the emergence of the desired democratic regime, even threatening the unity of the country after groups in Cyrenaica announced the establishment of a federal state perceived by the majority of the Libyans as being the first step toward the division of the country, rather than its reunification. It is also feared that the flow of refugees into neighboring states will lead to security problems that will escalate the cross-border tensions, cause the involvement of the hosting states or sectarian groups in Syrian affairs and revive the suppressed denominational conflict in each area. Hence, there are voices asking that the aid to the armed opposition be linked to this opposition's willingness to reunify its ranks and form one command which would allow the external sides to contribute to the temporary management of its operations, and participate in the drafting of its agenda for the transitional phase and the one that will follow.
Certainly, no one is awaiting the antidote from Iraq which is hosting the Arab summit at the end of the week, amid the close drum beats in Bahrain and the Iraqi provinces! But what is unfortunate is that the antidote might not come from the second conference held by Syria's Friends at the beginning of next month, while there is nothing pointing to the fact that Kofi Annan's mission will be successful since the humanitarian facet - despite its importance and urgent character - is not the solution. In the meantime, it is quasi-impossible to see domestic agreement over a settlement following the blood that was shed and the cleansing being witnessed in the cities and towns, in the absence of a formula such as the one that governed the revolution and the transitional phase in Egypt. Indeed, we saw a formula which guaranteed the non-collapse of the state, as some sort of a troika emerged between the military institution, the Muslims Brotherhood group and the foreign parties represented by the United States, and was able to handle all the crises witnessed in Cairo. The last to date was the crisis that erupted following the arrest of a number of activists in civil society organizations that received American support. The crisis was thus settled among the pillars of this troika, the detainees were released and Washington promised to resume the dispatch of aid to Egypt.
Now the question is: Can such a troika be secured in Syria? Russia does not wish to change the regime in the foreseeable future, unless it believes in the possibility of seeing a troika similar to the one in Egypt and in which Moscow would play a role similar to the American one in Cairo. Moreover, it does not want the Islamic powers to become the third party in case they were to succeed, or in case cracks were to emerge at the level of the guard's grip or within the narrow circle protecting the regime. At this level, it clearly expressed its fear over the rise of the Islamists to power in the states of the Arab action, from Libya to Yemen going through Tunisia and Egypt.
Unless such an equation is secured, the required change in Syria will remain far-fetched. This does not mean that the action has failed or that the regime was able to extinguish the revolution. It rather means that Syria will continue to witness the fall of dead and the continuation of the mobile destruction from one area to another day and night, unless a sudden collapse were to take place to change the rules of the war game based on what is seen in Damascus in terms of an action that some expect will escalate in parallel to the flow of armed men and weapons to most of the neighborhoods of the capital, for which the armed opposition established a military council a few days ago.
The reliance is not only on the Russian position which has started to grow closer to international consensus, albeit slowly and shyly. Rather, the reliance is on the friends who will soon gather in Turkey. Indeed, Moscow, which has renewed its campaign against the Syrian opposition, has once again attacked the Friends' group, fearing that some of them will attempt to operate outside the framework of the United Nations, especially since Turkey is calling for a collective international plan in the context of its threats to establish safe corridors. Can the opposition and its "friends" meet Russia halfway? They know that Vladimir Putin excessively used a stringent rhetoric and went far in raising the ceiling of the defiance and issuing threats left and right. They also know that the Russian leader currently needs to reposition himself in the face of the domestic opposition and to cool the air which was heated by Moscow's strong stand alongside the regime in Damascus. Nonetheless, such a transformation will require some time and will occur gradually, considering that he who brandished his machine and tools in the face of the West cannot hit the brakes abruptly. So, is there a way to avoid the ongoing clash with Moscow? Do the opposition and its friends not need repositioning?
2012 Media Communications Group
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