OP-ED By Mohammad Bassam Imadi ≈
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the international community have one thing in common: They’re wrong about Syria.
Assad believes he will triumph over the revolutionaries and hold on to power. He won’t. The international community thinks it can create some kind of power-sharing agreement between the rival factions and impose it on the Syrian people. It can’t.
The sad reality for Syria, meanwhile, is that there is no political solution in sight to put an end to the death, the destruction, and the suffering caused primarily by the regime’s Scud missiles and fighter planes, as well as by the Shabiha – Assad’s personal thugs.
Assad will never give up power. If he gives away control of the army or the intelligence forces, he’ll lose his grip on Syria. He cannot allow a transition into any sort of civilian government if he wants to keep his dictatorial position. Having worked in the Syrian foreign service, I’m familiar with Assad’s stubborn mindset.
Assad has already rebuffed overtures from former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi. He’s buying time because he thinks he can crush the revolution with the aid of Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia. There’s very little hope for a political solution.
On the other side of the equation, the Syrian National Coalition – which many countries recognize as the legitimate political representation of the Syrian people – is unrepresentative of, and detached from, the Syrian people. Any deal it could strike with the Assad regime, if indeed it were able to make any kind of deal at all, would never be recognized by the revolutionaries fighting in the streets. They have not sacrificed the lives of their comrades and loved ones only to accept an accommodation that would allow Assad to retain power.
So, the fighting will continue and, at the end of the day, the revolution will prevail. It will win because the people of Syria are behind it, despite the losses they have already suffered – despite the deaths of more than 100,000 people, despite the millions displaced and wounded, and despite the refugees inside and outside the country. This is so because there is no real alternative. Assad will fall.
The Syrian people continue their struggle while the international community stands by, refusing to save them from the massacres the Assad regime and its supporters commit every day. You would think that after so much carnage, and given the fact that a democratic and stable Syria is in everyone’s interest, the world would be planning to help Syria in a meaningful way.
Syria can only reach stability if the United States begins to provide real material and financial support to the rebels, or if the member nations of NATO conduct a military intervention. The Syrian people also desperately need anti-tank and anti-aircraft rockets to defend themselves. Of course, a serious intervention would have to be outside the ambit of the United Nations Security Council, because Russia and China would never accept such an act under UN auspices.
Assad has used chemical weapons against the opposition, making Syria’s situation comparable to those of Rwanda and Kosovo, where NATO intervened. NATO also took action in Libya to save the country from then-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who wanted to obliterate the city of Benghazi. Yet, Assad is obliterating the whole of Syria, and NATO has yet to intervene. Why should Syria be different?
The international community must realize that what happens in Syria will affect Europe, the United States, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, and all the other countries around it. It will fundamentally affect the stability of a part of the world that’s already dangerously unstable.
If you look at the videos and the photographs, you will see that Syria is in ruins. But still, nobody wants to act. Where is the conscience of the world? Where are the human rights? Where are democratic American values? People are being killed in the thousands, but nobody wants to make a move.
Instead of pursuing action, the international community is chasing illusions of a diplomatic settlement down the road to irrelevance. Meanwhile, Assad is chasing delusions of victory down the path to ever more slaughter and destruction.
Mohammad Bassam Imadi was the Syrian Ambassador to Sweden until 2009. He defected from the Bashar al-Assad regime in 2011. He now resides in Italy.