Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad communicated his plans and intentions in a speech to his country’s residents and the international community today. In his prepared remarks given to loud supporters, the Syrian president stated he was neither willing to give up the office he currently holds or negotiate with any group opposing him – either those in exile or on the ground in Syria. No one seemed surprised by the tone or content of these remarks and the US State Department announced that Assad has lost all legitimacy and should step aside to enable a political solution.
Clearly, this is not a surprise. Aside from Assad, and those in close proximity to the president, no one wants him to continue running the Syrian state – and I include Syria’s historical ally, Russia, in this group. On the other hand, the Syrian government while obstinate is not foolish. They clearly see what’s being written on the wall with an advancing opposition and deserting former supporters. While most people don’t know what is actually in Assad’s head, it would be logical to assume that given these developments, he would leave Syria if he and his allies were granted safe passage to another nation and a future life of stability and comfort.
The former-US President William Jefferson Clinton has been quoted as saying that despots do the “right thing” once they are shown how doing that “right thing” would benefit them personally. Assad is no different and I propose that one reason why he hasn’t left Syria is because no one has shown him how his departure will help save his life. No country has come forward to propose exile for him and his family, and, given what happened to Moammar Gaddafi, Assad is not just going to give up the presidency and leave himself at the mercy of the opposition. He may have done that a year ago but not today and, therefore, to expect him to just step aside is a foolish presumption.
I also can appreciate the difficulty of selling this solution to the Syrians, who have lost thousands to Assad’s forces, Turkey, Israel, and, perhaps most importantly, Saudi Arabia. These parties will not accept anything less than Assad’s prosecution and unless this comes off the table, the Syrian president will not step down. Therein lies the Catch-22.
However, the international community and the Syrian opposition need to logically consider the growing cost – in human and monetary terms – of this conflict and make a dispassionate decision about the future of Syria. Otherwise, there is a very real possibility that the future will be filled with not one Syrian nation but perhaps three or more small countries that constantly engage in unending skirmishes.