In the midst of the [international] engrossment with the killing of Muammar Qaddafi, the Assad regime timidly announced that it might accept the Arab League initiative, but that it rejects Qatar chairing the committee [to monitor Syria’s adherence to this]. Important news, but not because of the Assad regime’s agreement, but because this new position reveals that the Syrian regime is fearful and horrified with regards to the changes taking place in the region around it.
The Assad regime’s acceptance of the Arab League initiative now, albeit with conditions, is no longer as influential or valuable, even if it previously announced that it completely and comprehensively rejected this initiative. This is because the death of Qaddafi at the hands of the Libyan rebels, 9 months after the outbreak of the Libyan revolution, has changed the [political] balance in the region, and may alter the international community’s view regarding the proposed solutions to the Syrian crisis.
Qaddafi’s end, which was similar to his approach [to dealing with his own enemies], tells us that international alliances are capable of eliminating any tyrant on the condition that such a move has the backing of the people, and this is precisely what happened in Libya, with the participation of NATO forces under the leadership of France and Britain, with American support. The same is not out of the question with regards to the situation in Syria.
All that is required is for a restricted area within Syria to be granted protection status, and the Syrian army defectors to take refuge there and organize their ranks, with this territory, of course, being provided with NATO air cover, along the lines of what happened in Libya. Following this, we will find that the Assad regime will be unable to do anything but issue audio recordings, and at this point it will, of course, not be able to find any advantage from Hezbollah or Iraq or Nouri al-Maliki. Indeed this is the same Nouri al-Maliki who congratulated the Libyan people on the “fall of the tyrant” according to his statement, and that is the very definition of irony, for look who is talking!
At this point, with the movement of international alliances [against Syria], everybody will look to their own strategic interests, and forget sentimentality or sectarianism. At this time, the Lebanese government will be focused on maintaining its own cohesion, whilst Hezbollah will be focused on watching its own back. As for the al-Maliki government in Iraq, it will be preoccupied with maintaining its own cohesion in order to ensure that it does not collapse, particularly as there have been protests against the Baghdad government, whilst it has been conspicuously absent in the media. The same applies to Iran which has been rocked by the repercussions following the uncovering of the assassination plot targeting the Saudi ambassador in Washington, so how can there be any military confrontation with the international community [over Syria]?
What I mean to say is that the region has changed, as has the manner in which the international community deals with it, not to mention Arab public opinion that now sees nothing wrong with toppling tyrants, even if this comes at the hand of the West. This clearly differs from the response following the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime; therefore the post-Qaddafi era will certainly be different, and this is something that is also revealed by the western leaders’ responses to Qaddafi’s death. The Assad regime has failed to understand this [change], and this can be seen in it trying to resurrect the Arab League initiative that it previously comprehensively rejected.
What the Assad regime must understand is that it is too late; it wasted one opportunity after another, exhausting its [political] tricks and ploys, and today it finds itself in a situation where its only option is to offer genuine and severe concessions, otherwise it will face a tragic ending. We have seen 4 different scenarios regarding the end of Arab rulers, each one worse than the last. We have seen one Arab ruler’s end [hiding] in a hole, whilst another fled his country, and a third has found his end on a sickbed in hospital, whilst the last hid in a sewage tunnel [before being killed].
(This article was first published in Asharq Alawsat on Oct. 22, 2011)