AS­SAD; AN­I­MAL BUT NOT CRAZY

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - HAKKI ÖCAL

SYR­IAN leader Bashar As­sad may be many things but he is not crazy. Per­pe­trat­ing an­other chem­i­cal at­tack would have been a very risky atroc­ity

Yes, it was a chem­i­cal agent that killed 31 (The Wash­ing­ton Post) or 70 (the BBC) peo­ple in the Syr­ian town of Douma. The United States, with France and the U.K., be­liev­ing that the at­tack came from the usual sus­pect Bashar As­sad, car­ried out pre­ci­sion airstrikes against tar­gets in the area con­trolled by the Syr­ian regime.

How sure are we that those at­tacks were in­deed car­ried by the As­sad regime?

It can­not be de­nied that he is as mur­der­ous as his fa­ther to use chem­i­cal weapons. He is a mon­ster-an­i­mal as Trump calls him. His fa­ther killed 42,000 of his own cit­i­zens us­ing chem­i­cal weapons. So far, in the civil war in Syria since 2011, As­sad has killed close to a mil­lion Syr­i­ans.

Let’s ex­am­ine the sit­u­a­tion he was in on April 7 when the West­ern pow­ers say As­sad gassed the peo­ple in Douma.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin — de­spite all his dif­fi­cul­ties with Europe and the U.S. who started a spy war af­ter a Rus­sian dou­ble agent was poi­soned in Lon­don — had the U.N. Syria peace con­fer­ence ac­cepted the uni­fi­ca­tion of the As­tana and Geneva pro­cesses. The par­tic­i­pants agreed to re­write the Syr­ian con­sti­tu­tion. The new and im­proved par­tic­i­pants list would prob­a­bly make the ses­sions as fruit­ful as it had never been in Geneva. Putin and Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs Sergey Lavrov be­gan to crit­i­cize As­sad. Rus­sia over­ruled the Syr­ian regimes’ protests to Tur­key’s in­cur­sion into Syr­ian ter­ri­tory dur­ing Tur­key’s Op­er­a­tion Olive Branch. Rus­sia helped Tur­key sweep the Kur­dish ter­ror­ists. Rus­sia is the only coun­try that agreed to help Syria against any for­eign ag­gres­sion. Rus­sia agreed (and had As­sad agree too) to the de-es­ca­la­tion pro­gram in Syria. It has been im­ple­mented suc­cess­fully. All these mean that Rus­sia is will­ing to put the screws to As­sad’s op­er­a­tions.

How­ever, Rus­sian pres­sure on the Syr­ian regime is not as hard and fast as one would like it to be. When As­sad was com­mit­ting yet an­other atro­cious at­tack on the last refuge of the anti-regime op­po­si­tion groups in East­ern Ghouta with con­ven­tional weapons, i.e., the bar­rel bomb that killed as in­dis­crim­i­nately as any chem­i­cal weapon, the Rus­sian regime turned its head the other way. Tur­key con­vinced Rus­sia to at­tend peace talks and re­struc­tur­ing the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem in Syria that an open (and even demo­cratic) sys­tem could take roots in that fam­ily dic­ta­tor­ship where power is trans­ferred dy­nas­ti­cally.

As­sad’s other best friends, the Ira­nian mul­lahs, putting aside their mean­ing­less proxy war with Is­rael, have also be­come le­git­i­mate play­ers in the search of a so­lu­tion to the Syr­ian power strug­gle. A demo­cratic Syria would never yield to be­come a war field to the Ira­nian prox­ies. Not the PKK ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion and their Syr­ian off­shoot the Demo­cratic Union Party (PYD) ter­ror­ists but the true Kur­dish mem­bers as well as the Sunni Arabs and Turk­mens would be peace­ful neigh­bors to all coun­tries in the re­gion. No­body usu­ally lis­tens to the open­ing speeches at in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences but in As­tana and Sochi, all the op­po­si­tion groups clearly de­clared their in­ten­tion to live peace­fully in their coun­try with each other and with all their neigh­bors.

The As­tana process promised a peace­ful Mid­dle East that no one has ever ex­pe­ri­enced.

Now, de­spite all the short­com­ings and dif­fi­cul­ties that lie ahead, the civil war is as close to a peace­ful end­ing as it has never been since it started in 2011. A cun­ning dic­ta­tor like As­sad would fear that a demo­cratic con­sti­tu­tion would mean an end to his ruth­less rule, but he would also see this as an op­por­tu­nity to prac­tice his skills in de­ceit and eva­sion. He must per­fectly know by now that to pro­voke the ire of the U.S. by us­ing chem­i­cal weapons could mean sui­cide.

He would not risk the gains he was go­ing to have in cou­ple of months.

But this demo­cratic so­lu­tion had also meant the end of plans for the dis­mem­ber­ment of Syria. Cut­ting Syria into pieces would al­low Is­raeli hawks, neo­cons and the U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand (CENT­COM) to re­al­ize their plans.

Peace is scarier to them than As­sad the an­i­mal.

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