By Fawaz Shaheen:
In more than three years of conflict, around 100,000 people have been killed in Syria, according to UN estimates. Since August 2012, an average of 170 Syrians are killed everyday. As cynical statistics and incredulous figures become a daily reality, the truth is lost amid confusion and the competing narratives of Superpower games.
Bashar al-Assad is without any doubt a dictator and a tyrant with a proven family history of using extreme and cruel violence against any form of dissent. Those opposed to him in the region, primarily the big brother of Gulf monarchies Saudi Arabia, and to a lesser extent Qatar, are not much different. Its international opponents, led by the Unites States, have a proven efficiency in manipulating revolutions and dictating democracies. Its backers Russia and China habitually use ‘sovereignty‘ as an excuse to protect their interests in the region via model of a scaringly efficient and ruthless state-capitalism. In the backdrop looms large the bitterness of Saudi Arabia at an increasingly powerful Iran, Assad’s closest and most pro-active ally.
As Syria descends further into chaos and anarchy, this is a good time to sit down and look at some hard facts, informed by the geopolitics of past history and present turmoil in the Middle East region.
In January of 2011, Syria saw the beginning of peaceful protest calling for democratic reforms. These protests turned into a civil uprising against the government of Bashar al-Assad. By May of 2011, news began pouring in of the Assad regime using military force against the peaceful protestors. In July, a group of defectors from the Syrian military formed the Free Syrian Army to support the uprising against the Syrian government, with the stated aim of overthrowing the Assad regime.
During this period, the West was preoccupied with an increasingly messy situation in Libya, and for months the atrocities of Assad were tactically ignored while the once-peaceful uprising in Syria turned to other options.
What has followed may cynically be called an elaborate farce, but it is a glaring testament to the failure of world institutions meant to maintain peace. It proves once again that platforms like the UN are little more than instruments of power games among the world’s elite.
There have been countless meetings, “Friends of Syria” conferences, councils and coalitions in an endless diplomatic exercise that has yielded precisely no results on the ground. The Syrian National Council, which was formed with much fanfare to lead the revolutionaries, has been reduced to a platform for tussles among allies promoting their personal interests. Its first president Moaz al-Khatib, a popular and simple man who was Imam of the famous Umayyad mosque, resigned within five months. He alleged interference by foreign powers and their indifference to Syrian sufferings as the reason for his inability to continue.
With international pressure building and the Americans openly speaking of arming the opposition, it seems that President Assad’s departure is truly a matter of time. Even his backers China and Russia have spoken of exploring options ‘beyond Assad‘. President Obama may even employ his effective strategy of non-visible warfare (using covert forces and unmanned drones) to finally tilt the balance. But only at the right time.
As of now, the West is playing for time with pointless meetings and discussions which are little more than photo-ops. At the same time, backroom negotiations are in progress among the various “allies” of both sides to this conflict, figuring out ways to share the spoils of this war and the stake of each in the configuration of a post-Assad Syria. A sure pointer to this is the way in which both US and Russia are pushing for the ‘Geneva Conference‘ with both Assad and the rebels at the same table. It gives credence to the opinion that slowly but surely we are seeing an aligning of powerful interests.
Syria has unwittingly become the laboratory case for evolving new paradigms of conflict-resolution (read interest-management) in a new, multipolar world.
Meanwhile, fanatics and extremists have been armed to fight against and for the Assad regime, while sectarian tensions are being built up and ruthlessly manipulated in the run up to the formation of a new Syrian state, where the tried and tested formula of divide-and-rule will again be used by the new colonial forces to promote their interests.
A few days back, UN Secretary General called for both sides to respect the holy month of Ramadan and call a humanitarian ceasefire. If indeed a deal has been struck, the offer will be accepted. If not, the carefully manufactured stalemate will continue as long as an agreement is reached, and in the meantime Syrians will pay for it with their blood day after day after day.