With the Arab and Muslim states joining the chorus against Syria's war on its own people, Bashar Al Assad’s isolation is complete
When is enough really enough? How many innocent men, women, and children have to die before neighbors end their silence and intervene? The Arabs stood and stared for five long months before they chose to end their silence this week over Syria. In the meantime, 2,000 civilians were gunned down by the forces that were supposed to protect them.
Nevertheless, the belated Arab voices against the endless state carnage against peaceful protesters are welcome and could seriously turn the tide against the hated and totally discredited regime in Damascus. Both the Arab League and Gulf Cooperation Council have shed their inhibitions and cautious, ‘wait-and-watch’ position to condemn the Baathist regime, demanding a swift end to the murderous campaign against its own population. The strongest words of condemnation, however, have come from Saudi Arabia.
While Riyadh takes pride in its discreet and non-interventionist foreign policy despite its clout, the deafening silence and restraint over Syria all this while had also something to do with the good, if complex, relations the two giants of the Arab world have enjoyed for some time. Riyadh and Damascus have huge stakes in Lebanon and have worked together to stabilize the country. The two found themselves on the same side on the question of supportingthe Palestinians.
This is perhaps why, taking a cue from the government, leading Saudi newspapers have largely avoided excessive criticism of Syria’s murderous crackdown to kill the voices for change.
All this could change with the clarion call given by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. In an unusually strong statement, the Saudi monarch has slammed his erstwhile friend Bashar Al Assad, saying that the continuing carnage on Syria’s streets is “unacceptable for Saudi Arabia” and cannot be condoned by Islam.
And the usually circumspect King, widely respected across the Muslim world as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, did not stop there. “Syria should think wisely before it’s too late and enact reforms that are not merely promises but actual reforms,” he declared. “Either it chooses wisdom on its own or it will be pulled down into the depths of turmoil and loss. The future of Syria lies between two options: either to choose a course dictated by wisdom, or drift into the depths of chaos and loss.”
Stark warning there, and words that could prove the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back for Assad. King Abdullah followed his warning by recalling the Saudi ambassador to Damascus. Within hours, Kuwait and Bahrain followed suit. Qatar has already called back its envoy to Damascus. And more are sure to follow in the next few days.
Turkey, Syria’s big neighbor up north, the first to confront the Syrian regime and open its doors to thousands of Syrian refugees, has already toughened its stand, delivering a final ultimatum to Damascus. There’s even the threat of approaching the International Court of Justice hanging in the air. Despite its considerable commercial and financial interests in Syria, Turkey hasn’t shied away from holding a mirror to the brutality and madness in Damascus.
The only ally and friend on Syria’s side is Iran, whose interests converge in their support for the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah that drove Israel out of Lebanon. But even the Islamic republic is said to be actively considering the post-Assad scenarios.
The isolation of Bashar al Assad is complete, which is clear to everyone but the corrupt and ruthless regime that has ruled and ravaged the ancient and largest country of the Levant for more than four decades. An unelected, miniscule minority has kept a whole country in chains and under its boots for far too long.
And unlike security forces in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere that largely exercised relative restraint in the face of recent democratic protests, the Syrian forces have gone after unarmed, peaceful protesters, pounding towns and cities as though they were enemy territory. Why? There’s a simple explanation. The Syrian government, security forces and the entire power structure is dominated and controlled by Assad’s clan, the powerful Allawite sect.
But if Syria’s rulers think they can get away with murder using such terror tactics and rule forever at gunpoint, they are grievously mistaken. Didn’t they see what happened to their fellow travelers in the region? Didn’t they see the disgrace and ignominy that have come the way of the Mubaraks, Salehs, and Ben Alis of this world? How could they forget the sword of the ICC warrant hanging over the head of Muammar Qaddafi? For every bullet fired on innocents is another nail in the coffin of this vicious regime. Assad is blocking his own exit routes.
This is 2011, not 1982, when the Syrian forces under the late father of the president could massacre more than 20,000 people in Hama, the scene of much of the current carnage, and get away with it. The world has changed, and so have the Arabs. The Syrians, or any other people for that matter, will not be cowed down by these terror tactics anymore. The thin veneer of fear and terror carefully woven all these years by the corrupt was ripped the day a humble Tunisian fruit vendor brought down the most powerful in the land.
So the more protesters the Syrian troops kill, not sparing even those attending funerals, the more vehement and determined the demonstrations rocking the country get. And the noose around the regime’s neck tightens. It’s only a matter of time before the regime collapses under the weight of its own crimes.
Meanwhile this is time for the rest of the world, especially Muslim countries, to add their voices to the Syrian people’s desperate calls for change. For what is going on in Syria is perhaps even worse than in Libya. At least in Libya’s case, international outrage and condemnation of the regime has been followed by intervention, albeit disastrously ineffective. On Syria though there’s been little movement across the region thanks to several factors, including the country’s strategic geopolitical position.
This must change and change now. For the longer the world remains silent the more innocent people will die on Syria’s streets and their blood will be on our hands. If there’s a case for foreign intervention, it is in Syria. The Baathist regime is on the wrong side of history and it’s about time it is made to realize it. With the mindless bloodletting of the past five months, Assad has stripped himself of his fig leaf of legitimacy, if he ever had one.
When this season of hope had dawned, Assad had declared: ‘The Arab spring stops in Syria.’ Well, he couldn’t be more wrong. The Arab spring will outlast him and his kind and the world will see it.