The number of people killed in Syria on the first day of the Eid Al-Adha holiday, with the “cessation of military operations” on the part of the regime’s forces going into effect, was lower than the daily average of previous days. Joint UN-AL Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi saw fewer victims on the day of the Eid, thereby fulfilling the slogan of the truce he had called for. And it is not known whether this kind of conclusion might encourage him to continue engaging in these kinds of mediations, so as to build on them in order to reach the political solution he has been heralding, without anyone in the world knowing what it consists of.
In terms of form, the regime’s troops have abided by their statement on the cessation of operations, as they have only made use of their right to respond – having responded to worshippers coming out of mosques on the first day of the Eid demanding the overthrow of the regime. Indeed, those peaceful protesters have committed aggression against the regime simply by marching in a protest – what then when they are demanding the overthrow of the regime? They thus turn into “armed takfiri gangs” and it becomes the regime’s duty to respond to them with snipers, shelling and arrests. The regime’s forces have therefore done nothing but make use of their right to respond to the “major breach” committed by the protesters.
In terms of content, the regime has from day one dealt with the Syrian uprising as one made up of “armed gangs hired by foreign powers”. Anyone who would oppose the regime’s policies, or even its management of the crisis, would thus become a “hired agent” of Zionism, Imperialism and the Arab Gulf states, as well as Turkey. In other words, the regime has, since the start of the first protest, labeled the majority of the people in the country “traitors and foreign agents” who must be eradicated. This explains the fierceness of the killing and the excessive destruction and displacement of the majority of the population.
It is estimated that the experience of this truce, which did not occur, will represent a wealth of lessons for Brahimi, since he is looking for opinions and ideas here and there. This experience may well spare him from probing the opinions held by Moscow, and before it Tehran and other capitals. The most significant lesson to be learned from it is that the regime considers any kind of opposition in the country to represent “armed aggression” against it, and that it deals with such aggression with all the different kinds of heavy artillery it possesses. Such a consideration applies not just to the majority of the Syrian people, but also to anyone who would support their right to freedom and would show solidarity with the tragedies they are suffering at the hands of the regime that governs them.
And when Brahimi faces the ideas the regime considers will lead to a solution in Syria, he will have to take into consideration the fact that any attempt to make the regime accept the notion of Syrians having rights will be considered tantamount to “aggression”, just like the “aggression” of those peaceful protesters two days ago. And if Brahimi is wagering on any circumstances or pressures that would bring the regime to accept dialogue with the opposition, the regime’s response has been since day one that this opposition is working for a foreign agenda, and that no dialogue will be held with it save through arms in order to eradicate it.
In this sense, the issue is not that the truce with the opposition, which Brahimi had sought, did not last, as it from the start was not a truce for the regime, which does not in the first place acknowledge that it is facing an internal opposition, but rather “armed groups” wreaking havoc in the country. The issue is rather connected to the kind of solution Brahimi seeks to reach through dialogue and by stopping the killing.
If the regime cannot bear a peaceful demonstration, as the experience of the long months that have passed has proven, especially during the period in which it was supposed to “cease military operations”, then how can Brahimi convince it to engage in dialogue with those protesters and with those who represent them in the opposition, so as to reach a solution? In fact, how can Brahimi convince Russia, the sponsor of the “cessation of military operations”, which he is visiting tomorrow, of the lessons of this aborted truce, so as to reach an international movement that would force the regime to stop considering that heavy artillery, destruction, displacement and killing are the only way for it to deal with the majority of Syrians?
The writer is a columnist at the London-based al-Hayat, where this article was published on Oct. 28, 2012