Hassan Hassan writes: The world still blinks every time that Bashar Al Assad speaks, as if it has not learnt anything from 21 months of violence.
In his speech yesterday – his ninth since the uprising began – the dictator offered a plan that would include a lengthy, complicated process of gradual change and “truth and reconciliation”. That would, in theory, lead to a new coalition government and a new constitution.
The speech was preceded by an aggressive two-week diplomatic campaign by the regime’s allies and the UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. That renewed push for diplomacy followed 140 countries’ recognition of the National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people, Nato Patriot missiles and military personnel that were dispatched to Turkey’s border, and pledges of increased support for the opposition.
The diplomatic overture by the regime is part of a Russian-backed plan that would keep Al Assad in power until presidential elections in the summer of 2014. And the diplomacy appears to have succeeded in slowing down aid to the rebels, with reports that arms supplies are drying up. But the speech yesterday should remind the world that this dictator has no place in a future Syria and that support for the rebels is the only way forward.
Russia probably pressured on Al Assad to announce a plan of reconciliation. But the speech sounded more vindictive, dismissive and exclusivist than even his previous bombast. For example, he said the plan was directed at only segments of the opposition, and that “those who reject the offer, I say to them: why would you reject an offer that was not meant for you in the first place?” In other points, he emphasised vengeance rather than reconciliation. He also blamed the rebels for the destruction of infrastructure and for cutting off electricity and communications.
“Syria accepts advice but never accepts orders,” he said. “All of what you heard in the past in terms of plans and initiatives were soap bubbles, just like the [Arab] Spring.” [Continue reading…]
Assad is a Bad Man, no doubt about it, and he should go.
But what is more important for Syria – having Assad raped and disemboweled a la Khaddafi – or just that he should leave power and go to Iran or whoever is willing to have him?
It seems that for the US, UK and the “Friends of Syria” the sine qua non for all discussions is that Assad should just leave – with no guarantees and no understandings. The insurgency – whoever and whatever they are – takes the point of view that they won’t talk to Assad at all. You know, “we have no partner for peace”.
That makes the desired end of a negotiation into it’s precondition. That’s also a point of view that is likely to lead to the deaths of a dozen times as many innocents as have been to date.
There is certainly enough detail in Assad’s proposal to try to move forward with it. Not because it’s acceptable in itself but because the alternatives are either talks, however moribund, or further senseless killing and banditry. In brief it envisions a phased series of discussions, with all parties, leading to a new constitution approved by a constitutional referendum. See http://sana-syria.com/eng/21/2013/01/06/460536.htm
The idea that Assad won’t talk say, to Jabhat al-Nusra, is nonsense. For one thing, neither will the U.S. For another the U.K. refused, until the bitter end, to ever talk with the IRA, but the deal with Sinn Fein was effectively binding on the IRA in any case.
Let us also not forget the interest of Allawites, Christians, Kurds, Druse, Allevi, and all the other minorities who would be sytematically “cleansed” in the event of a rebel victory.
Assad said: “We told everyone we met that anything or any idea that comes from outside or inside my pass through popular referendum, not through the president, government, dialogue or any other thing.” Given the current conditions in Syria, that is the definition of an impossible precondition and clear evidence that the Assad regime does not have the slightest interest in negotiations in any form.