Last Updated: Mon Sep 19, 2011 09:40 am (KSA) 06:40 am (GMT)

A tragedy of errors for which the Syrian people pay the price

Jihad el-Khazen

I fear that the relationship between the Syrian regime and the protesters is now like broken glass that cannot possibly be put back together. Then I remember Shakespeare’s comic play ‘The Comedy of Errors’, as I find myself witnessing a tragedy of errors in Syria that no one has been spared of, since the confrontations broke out six months ago.

President Bashar al-Assad could have avoided everything that transpired later, if he had presented, in his speech at the People’s Assembly, a real program for reform and then started implementing it. Syria was truly in a different position that that of Tunisia and Egypt, as Assad himself said in an interview with an American publication a month before that. However, the actions of the Syrian government have created a worse situation than the one that was present in either Tunisia or Egypt.

While President Hosni Mubarak did not surprise me with any of his actions, since he is an old and sick man who is isolated from the outside world and thus living in a world of his own making, President Assad did indeed surprise me with every step he took along the way, because I, at each juncture, expected one decision from him only to find that he made a completely different one. If he had started by allowing political parties, parliamentary elections by a particular date and under international supervision, as well as a parliament that elects a government from amongst the winners, we would not have arrived to the present situation.

The President had the support of a clear majority of his people: all minorities are on his side, along with a majority of Sunnis. For this reason, we saw that the least amount of trouble, protests and confrontations has taken place in Damascus and Aleppo. However, the President lost in two months what he had built in ten years and there is no point in denying this. For one thing, I am not writing to gloat, but rather because I am sad and concerned for the future of Syria, its people and Lebanon, as well as the entire region if daily (and nightly) killings continue on the streets of Syrian cities, towns and villages.

I do not know why Dr. Bashar has chosen his uncle, cousin and ghosts from amongst the intelligence officers as his advisors, because he is smarter than all of these people (The ‘Shabiha’ [nickname for Syrian regime goons] have nothing to do whatsoever with the luxurious cars nicknamed ‘Shabah’ [Ar. Ghost], as the Arab media claimed. This is an Egyptian usage of the word, not Syrian. The ‘Shabiha’ is an old and known word synonymous to ‘braggart’, or someone trying to climb up the social ladder while pretending to have money, education or roots that he does not actually have).

If the Syrian President really needed an advisor, then no one would have been better than Mrs. Asma al-Assad, the woman from Homs. She is extremely intelligent, patriotic and is of and with the people. Besides, she knows about the people's causes and needs what all the Baath leaders combined do not know. God be with you Mrs. Asma…

I started with the regime, and with the president specifically, so that I can continue with the opposition. I can accuse the latter of treason, but treason is a big word, so I choose to accuse the opposition of stupidity, foolishness or sheer ignorance instead.

How can any Syrian take to the streets to demand foreign intervention in his country? “The Friday of International Protection”? Has it ever happened that a foreign country has intervened in the affairs of another for the sake of its people? Is it possible that any country would interfere in the affairs of another for any other reason that its own interests, and not those of the country targeted by intervention?

Western countries intervened in Libya out of greed for its oil. These same countries had reconciled themselves with an insane terrorist ruler, placing their oil interests above the Libyan people’s right to live. When Muammar Gaddafi was ousted, their first demand was to keep in place the oil contracts these countries were given by Gaddafi, as a price for their silence towards his crimes against his people.

In Syria, there is no oil that is worth NATO’s intervention and lies that it is doing so to protect civilians, as it had done in Libya. However, Syria is the first and last Arab line of defense against Israel, and the price of any intervention would be a policy of surrender, subordination and dependence…in other words, the Syrian people would be shedding their own skin.

The Syrian opposition leadership does not represent those protesting day and night. It includes those who are patriotic yet ignorant to the point of calling for foreign intervention, and a minority of traitors, in Washington and elsewhere, who are trying to walk in the footsteps of the Iraqi traitors who destroyed their country by deliberately providing false premises for the U.S. occupation. By contrast, the protesters want more freedoms, dignity and work.

The measures of the Syrian government are wrong, and the stances of the so-called leaders of the citizens are even worse. We are witnessing nothing short of a tragedy of errors for which the poor Syrian people pay the price, as they are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

If I wanted mere safety, I would have written in support of the Syrian government pending the opposition to be crushed, or in support of the opposition pending the collapse of the regime. However, I am first and foremost with Syria. By virtue of my age, Syria is my country before being the country of three-quarters of the Syrians. Syria and Egypt have nothing in my heart except fondness, away from the tragedy of mutual errors between the ruler and the ruled.

The writer is a prominent columnist. The article was published in the London-based al-Hayat on Sept. 18, 2011.

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