In Syria, Western Strikes Will Herald Assad's Fall: Moscow's Shifting Stance
06 September 2013
By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed
Regarding punishing the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad
in Syria and actually seeking regime change, there is
a major difference associated with the language used
in the media and with the legal measures required for
each distinct goal.
The steps to be taken by the international community
against the regime of Bashar Al-Assad will be no more
than a limited operation. The aim is to make the
regime reconsider its stance and refrain from using
gases and chemicals that are internationally
It is true that the attack will be a limited form of
punishment—limited to the point that Syrian President
Assad won't even have to leave his home; however, the
repercussions and implications of such an attack are
This is the first international military attack
against Assad after 27 months of fighting. The most
important of its implications is Moscow's shifting
stance. Assad's international ally made unprecedented
signs of approving the attack, although it did not
abandon his diplomatic rhetoric urging restraint.
Russia's current stance resembles its stance before
the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Back then,
Russia objected to the invasion but it refrained from
joining the fight, announcing it would not militarily
interfere to protect Saddam Hussein. The same applies
to the case of Syria. This is an important field
development because Russia has in the past two years
continued to threaten that it will not remain idle if
its Syrian ally is attacked.
If the analysis of the Russian stance is correct, then
we are facing an important shift in the Syrian war in
the wake of the recent Saudi approach towards the
Russians. As a result, we notice that the Russians are
calmly withdrawing from Syria. First they began by
decreasing the number of their military experts.
Secondly, the Russians are heading towards abandoning
Syria as a naval base for their battleships in the
Middle East. Such a move would entail Assad losing one
of his most important international allies. Iran and
Hezbollah would remain steadfast supporters, but what
can these two really do?
An often repeated statement of theirs is a threat to
burn the region, Iraq's Saddam and Libya's Qaddafi
previously made these threats, which vanished with
their departure from power. Iran is smarter than both,
as it doesn't seek to involve itself. It forcefully
fought against Iraq in the 1980s; after that, it did
not fight in any big military operation at all for
three decades. It fought neither in the Gulf, which is
important to world oil supply, nor in Israel. It
always left the task to its smaller allies, Hezbollah
and Hamas. Iran knows that the price of confrontation
is very high. A one-month war may destroy the military
facilities it built over a period of 30 years.
Hezbollah too will not launch its missiles on northern
Israel unless it is forced to do so. First of all,
Hezbollah realizes that such a move will not prevent
the Western attack against Assad. Second of all,
Hezbollah's arms, which pain the Lebanese, represent
nothing more than cat-like scratches on the arm of
Israel—that is, they are not too harmful. Hezbollah is
also capable of carrying out terrorist operations
against Arab and foreign interests. These too will not
stop the collapse of the regime in Damascus. They will
instead increase the world's belief in the importance
of besieging Hezbollah and punishing it later.
We will not witness a repeat of the American toppling
of Saddam, which took a matter of days. What is
expected is that any foreign intervention in Syria
will be geared towards specified targets. These
attacks won't topple Assad's regime but will
contribute to its weakening, laying the groundwork for
its collapse at a later date. Assad, despite the
unprecedented support he received from Iran, Russia,
Iraq and Hezbollah, failed to win the war.
We will see a sick, exhausted man confronted with a
superior Western attack. If the opposition and its
army had been united, then perhaps there would have
been no need for international military sanctions.
Assad is exhausted and the Iranian and Russian support
did not help him regain any of the power or the lands
he has lost.
In addition to the regime's weakness, it has become
further exposed as a result of the withdrawal of
Russian support and Iran's announcement that it will
abstain from militarily defending Syria. Let's
remember that this is the first Western military move
against Assad. We see the threat's repercussions
embodied in the Syrian regime's apparent fear and the
Free Syrian Army's preparation to expand its
operations towards the capital. All these signs
indicate that Assad's fall will occur in the upcoming
months. Fear and desperation may speed up the collapse
of his regime well before that.
Al Rashed is the general manager of Al -Arabiya
television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of
Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly
magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a senior Columnist in
the daily newspapers of Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is
a US post-graduate degree in mass communications. He
has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs.
He is currently based in Dubai.