The Syrians Are Waiting For November
07 August 2016
By Eyad Abu Shakra
Last Saturday, Asharq Al-Awsat mentioned that it had been informed by 'Western
diplomatic sources' that Staffan de Mistura, the UN and Arab League Envoy to
Syria, was coming under Russo-American pressures that aim at holding a new
round of negotiations in Geneva.
Under normal circumstances there would have been no reasons for 'pressures',
but what the Syrian crisis is going through has exceeded all limits. The mere
fact that the UN has to plead with Bashar Al-Assad's regime and its 'henchmen
on the ground' just to allow food and medicines into besieged areas some
that have been besieged since 2012 is enough proof.
Here one may ask why 'The International Crisis Group for Syria' exists. Which
'Syria' is it dealing with? How cohesive is this 'Group'? And, what is the
significance about this group being 'international' when one of its pillars,
i.e. Russia, is now an 'intervention and occupation force', enjoying an
American 'carte blanche' to do what it likes, and interpret and execute UN
resolutions as it pleased.
Indeed, as time passed by and 'red lines' disappeared, the 'Friends of Syria
Group' was also proving to be a lie as it became obvious that there was only a
handful of such 'friends'. Today, as Washington and Moscow's positions
vis-ΰ-vis Syria have become almost indistinguishable, Beijing has adopted
Moscow's policies without hesitation, and the clear frustration and inability
of the European powers to do anything about Washington's Syria policy, we are
witnessing the collapse of 'The International Crisis Group for Syria' which is
rapidly following the lip-service 'friends' to the scrapheap.
During the last couple of years a lot of blame was levelled at Mr de Mistura.
However, it is obvious now that he was working under tight constraints that
render his efforts fruitless. Moscow is clearly unwilling to surrender a
political and military 'advantage' gained in a strategic region that was for
it a 'no go' area.
As for Washington, it is surely unwilling to jeopardize its agreements with
the Iranian leadership during what is left of Barack Obama's second term in
the White House, even at the expense of the Middle East's stability and the
territorial integrity of its countries.
Finally, Tehran, controlled by the hubris of the 'Mullahs' and blood lust of
the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and benefitting from its accords with both
Washington and Moscow, is not going to miss a historical chance of avenging
its old defeats against the Arabs and challenging the Turks for the leadership
of the Muslim world
Given all the above, could a murderous regime like the Al-Assad regime be
blamed if it did not exploit such a regional and global climate to continue
In addition to what has been mentioned, there in the background, is the
curiously 'pragmatic' Israeli position. It is actually based on the following
Firstly, Israel has always been 'relaxed' in its dealings with the Syrian
regimes under the two Al-Assads, father and son; noting that the day before
yesterday marked the 16th anniversary of the death of the father, Hafez Al-Assad,
who invented the concept of 'co-existence' with Israel under the mask of
'rejecting' it since 1973. The Israeli leadership, in turn and out of
experience, knows only too well how to differentiate between talks and
actions, especially, when coming from loud out-bidders who are only happy to
co-exist with it.
Secondly, Syria today is virtually a 'condominium'. The Al-Assad regime would
not survive without the direct support of Iran and Russia, of course, with
Washington's and even Tel Aviv's blessings. The recurring visits by the
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Moscow against the deafening
silence of the Damascus 'rejectionists' and Beirut 'resistors' is a clear
proof of the lines that are defining the 'prohibited' areas as well as the
margins of manoeuvres.
Thirdly, Iran was never far from outbidding and bluffing as regard 'resisting'
(USA and Israel); and since the 1979 Khomeini 'Islamic Revolution' and then
the 'Iran-Contra' scandal, Iran has been much more interested in bringing
drown Arab regimes through ''exporting the revolution'' than fighting Israel.
This has been proven time and time again, from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen to
the heart of Palestine itself, where Iran has sponsored the tearing apart of
the Palestinian social fabric from within in order to undermine any
possibility that a viable Palestinian entity could emerge.
Fourthly, a regional Muslim 'civil war' between Sunnis and Shi'is does not
worry the Israeli Right; the reason being is that such a 'war' serves its
interest in more than one way. It diverts attention away from its policies of
annexation, settlements, and the eventual 'transfer' of Palestinians. It also
weakens and fragments a likely 'enemy' that threatens these policies. Thus,
the Israeli Right, led by Netanyahu and his Likud Party, see no benefits in
the collapse of a regime it knows well and has never ever feared. In fact,
what this Israeli Right desires now is nothing more than having a say in how
regional influence is distributed through firmly deciding Iran's share, or
agreeing a ceiling for its ambitions, under the watchful eyes of Washington
Back to De Mistura, the 'Western diplomatic sources' quoted by Asharq Al-Awsat
sound pessimistic about any effective international move in the light of what
they regard as 'toothless' Washington policy while Moscow handles most of the
cards in Syria. They go as far as saying that the Secretary of State John
Kerry has 'handed over' the Syrian portfolio to the Russians and that Kerry,
along with President Barack Obama and the CIA, are of the view that ISIS is
the only threat there. Subsequently, they believe that all efforts must serve
this objective alone even if it meant cooperating with Moscow, and further
still, even if it meant keeping Al-Assad regime if it was the price of
Moscow's cooperation. On the other hand, as the 'diplomatic sources' add, the
Pentagon represents the opposite argument, as it distrusts both the White
House's approach and the Kremlin's intentions. Indeed, the Pentagon firmly
believes that the 'Moscow Tehran Damascus' axis is hell-bent on a military
solution in Syria and is striving to achieve it.
Thus, the Syrians' suffering is expected to increase, since any change in
Obama's position seems unlikely during the countdown of his presidency, and
the virtual partition of Syria and the intentional rundown of moderation
within the 'Opposition' are underway.
So, thanks to American negativity and international disability, the only hope
left for the Syrians now is to wait for early November.
Eyad Abu Shakra is the managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat. He has been with
the newspaper since 1978.