There may be differing views and political stances among the analysts and experts, politicians and state officials, regarding the crisis that has been ongoing for almost a year in Syria, but there is one conviction shared by everyone, namely that the Syrian regime – with its current leadership – cannot continue, and that change is inevitable. This comes after the regime’s role in the magnitude of bloodshed that we see every day now, which has come to resemble a massacre.
The question that puzzles everybody - and which no one has a clear answer to - is the time required for this change to take place, how much it will cost, how it will take place, and what will happen afterwards?
For its part, the Syrian leadership does not share this conviction; or rather it is in a state of denial regarding its fate that is clear for all to see. It organized a referendum for a new constitution against the backdrop of bullets, rocket artillery and tanks, and whilst cities are being besieged and subjected to what appears to be massacres, as though this situation is something normal.
This state of denial is clearly evident from the statements made by the Syrian President when he was casting his vote in the referendum, emphasizing that “They may be stronger in space, but we are stronger on the ground. Still, we want to win on the ground and in space.” By “space” here he does not mean sending satellites or spacecraft into orbit, but rather he was referring to satellite television, which the regime accuses of waging a media war, as if was the sole cause of the problem, fabricating all the events taking place. In the same speech he continued to blame the problem on external parties. Yet Assad himself used to dominate [Syrian] satellite channels forcing them say what the regime wanted, in order to convince the audience of the stories of armed gangs and bandits, and keep the ordinary Syrian citizens silent, who were merely seeking dignity, freedom and justice.
From the beginning there has been a lack of foresight on the part of the regime, alongside its stubbornness and a state of denial, with arrogant statements proclaiming that Syria is not Tunisia and is not Egypt, although the situation in Syria is worse than the former regimes in the aforementioned two countries by a long way. The state of stubbornness led to the delusional regime failing to see the state of unrest and the popular will for change, which began with the simple demands of freedom and justice. This was then met with fierce repression that ultimately led to a gradual escalation in the demands, until the only solution left was for the regime to leave.
The Syrian leadership did not consider the initiatives, signals, and the content of the messages that it received on Arab and international levels. Other Arab regimes didn’t receive such chances to enact change peacefully, and in a framework avoiding what we are seeing now with the danger of a devastating civil war that will mean the bloody end of the regime.
The Arab Initiative was the clearest roadmap to resolve the crisis and stop the bloodbath, in a manner similar to what was adopted in Yemen to resolve the crisis there. [Under the initiative], the President would hand over power to his deputy for a transitional period headed by a government of national unity, in order to hold elections and draft a new constitution. This path would have ensured the departure of the former leadership in a safe and secure manner, however the regime failed to see the lifeline handed to it, and insisted that the people themselves were in favor of the security solution; i.e. more killings!
There are further puzzling questions, such as why does the Syrian leadership not see what the rest of the world sees? What does it see when it looks at the uprising Syrian cities that continue to resist tanks, bullets and arrests? Are the circles of power there really convinced with the fabricated talk of armed gangs, foreign conspiracies and provocative satellite channels? Is it possible for such factors to spark a country-wide revolution that has been ongoing relentlessly for nearly a year, and is currently intensifying?
The truth is that the Syrian regime does not have control over the ground or space. On the ground it is using armored vehicles and tanks to confront civilian areas and unarmed people. This is a sign of the regime’s weakness and its inability to control. The “space” Assad refers to is not the satellite channels, but rather it is the people on the ground that film and document the repression they are being subjected to, and then send the footage abroad so that people can hear their voice.
Ali Ibrahim is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article first appeared on Feb. 29, 2012