How the West and the Syr­ian op­po­si­tion handed As­sad an­other pres­i­den­tial term

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - By Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

Af­ter thou­sands of deaths, hun­dreds of bar­rel bombs, mil­lions of refugees, widescale de­struc­tion, star­va­tion and even the use of chem­i­cals, Bashar al-As­sad some­how clung on to power.

The fact that af­ter all the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of the Syr­ian civil war that As­sad re­tains a firm grip on power, is as much about the re­silience of the regime and the strong sup­port it continues to re­tain at home and also abroad through Iran, Hezbol­lah and Rus­sia, as the large-scale fail­ing of the West and the Syr­ian op­po­si­tion.

From the out­set of the revo­lu­tion, Western pow­ers were in­de­ci­sive and in­con­sis­tent in how they should en­cour­age or sup­port the revo­lu­tion.

For­eign pol­icy de­ci­sion mak­ing, es­pe­cially from the Unites States was so la­bored that by time ex­ter­nal de­ci­sions were made, the pic­ture on the ground had al­ready fun­da­men­tally changed.

This is par­tic­u­larly true at the start of the war in 2011 when the Western po­si­tion was slow and ten­ta­tive. As the West wa­vered on their next steps, Is­lamist forces had long high-jacked the Syr­ian revo­lu­tion.

Now from the brink of de­feat, As­sad awarded him­self an­other 7 years in power. There is no doubt the re­cent pres­i­den­tial elec­tions were tainted with cor­rup­tion, but the even then no one can deny that As­sad still en­joys sup­port amongst a large sec­tion of Syr­i­ans.

If fully le­git­i­mate, fair and ver­i­fi­able elec­tions were to be held to­mor­row across all of Syria, As­sad would cer­tainly not win any­where near 87% of the vote but would still record a strong show­ing that can­not be dis­counted.

This is an ironic re­al­ity given As­sad’s wide-scale de­struc­tion, star­va­tion and reprisal and speaks vol­umes on the de­clin­ing faith in the op­po­si­tion.

Mil­lions more Syr­i­ans sup­port the revo­lu­tion but dis­cour­aged by a dis­united op­po­si­tion seem­ingly too busy fight­ing amongst them­selves or a West that they doubt would ever take real ac­tion, pre­fer the devil that is As­sad than the lit­eral ru­ins of to­day if it means re­turn of their liveli­hood, homes or any sense of nor­malcy .

The elec­tions were widely crit­i­cized by the US and EU pow­ers whilst the op­po­si­tion vowed to step up their cam­paign. Only last week US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama stated that US would "ramp up" sup­port for rebels. While Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor Su­san Rice re­cently con­firmed the US was of­fer­ing both "lethal and non-lethal" aid to mod­er­ate rebels.

While the West im­ple­ments mea­sures, it is done with a sense of hes­i­tancy and at a slug­gish pace. It was clear since the fail­ure of the Geneva talks in Fe­bru­ary that As­sad would not re­lin­quish power, nor would Rus­sia ac­cept his down­fall just to open doors to the Western spon­sored op­po­si­tion.

The cue to change for­eign pol­icy should have come af­ter a se­ries of Amer­i­can red lines were non­cha­lantly crossed by the regime, let alone when the Geneva talks had failed.

Piece­meal ges­tures will not turn the tide and prac­ti­cal game-chang­ing mea­sures will not be en­dorsed by the West. Un­for­tu­nately, the end re­sult is a de facto par­ti­tion of Syria with the Kurds con­tin­u­ing with their new­found au­ton­omy, As­sad con­sol­i­dat­ing his hold on the Da­m­as­cus, Homs and Latakia axis and the rebels con­tin­u­ing to fight amongst them­selves over swathes of ter­ri­tory around Aleppo, Raqa and the Turk­ish bor­der.

It was no se­cret that some western pow­ers pre­fer a deal with As­sad than an Is­lamist take-over of Da­m­as­cus but how will As­sad va­cate power now? Why re­lin­quish power when regime is in its as­cen­dancy and re­gain­ing ground when it didn’t fold at its weak­est point?

The only thing that will force As­sad to ne­go­ti­ate is ei­ther a sig­nif­i­cant turn­ing of the tide in the civil war which of course takes a sig­nif­i­cant em­pow­er­ing of the rebels by the West or any aban­don­ment of the regime by Moscow or Tehran. None of these are likely to hap­pen.

The end re­sult is more suf­fer­ing and more de­struc­tion as the civil war drags on.

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