Syrian president Bashar al Assad

Syrian president Bashar al Assad

The gradual rehabilitation of Syria’s Assad

Posted by

With the exception of the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC), led by Mr Ahmed Al-Jarba, the clamour for President Bashar Al-Assad to depart appears to have ceased, writes Abdelbari Atwan.

American politicians, both hawks and doves, and European leaders of every hue were previously blue in the face from shouting that Assad had to go.

Now, all we hear are words of praise and encouragement, especially from the mouth of John Kerry, US Secretary of State. Kerry is really impressed that Assad has met the first deadlines towards chemical weapons disarmament set by the United Nations weapons experts.

The State of Qatar’s sudden silence is particularly conspicuous. It was Qatar that led a fierce campaign against the Syrian regime, politically and militarily, and spearheaded efforts to remove the regime from the Arab League, giving the Syrian seat to the SNC and inviting the then SNC leader, Moaz al-Khatib, to address their summit in March last year.

Qatar’s change of heart is not unrelated to the present campaign in the media outing Qatar for its human rights abuse of foreign workers; a campaign that had its origins in Washington. In other words, this change of heart is as a result of pressure from the US administration which clearly now seeks not only a negotiated solution to the Syrian crisis but, likely, keep Assad in power.

Consensus

After two and a half years of brutal war the international community has reached a consensus that rehabilitation of Assad is preferable to the deep uncertainties of any alternative. There are many indicators and reasons:

First: the Americans and Europeans are prepared, not only to contemplate Assad’s candidacy in next summer’s presidential elections, but even to extend his current term by a further two years, postponing elections until 2015 with the excuse that security problems will make organizing the ballot extremely difficult, particularly in areas outside government.

Second: the erosion of international and regional isolation of the Syrian regime, following Assad’s agreement to sign up to the Chemical Weapons Convention and allow inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to oversee the destruction of his arsenal. All of these factors enhance the legitimacy of the Assad regime.

Third: US-Iranian rapprochement has already seen John Kerry in one to one talks with his Iranian counterpart, foreign minister Mohammad Javad. Do not be surprised if Kerry meets Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem in the coming weeks.

The conflict in Syria has destroyed the country

The conflict in Syria has destroyed the country

Fourth: the revival of Palestinian diplomatic relations with the regime after two and a half years of estrangement. Two days ago, Abbas Zaki, the personal envoy of President Mahmoud Abbas, met with President Assad. At the same time, a Hamas delegation, led by Mohammed Nasr, a member of the political bureau, visited Tehran and the two sides agreed to normalize their relationship again and mooted the return of Hamas to its base in Damascus – Khaled Meshaal uprooted it in April this year, breaking with the Assad regime, a long term supporter of the Palestinian resistance.

Fifth: rapid normalization of relations between the new government of Egypt led by Abdel Fattah El Sisi and its Syrian counterparts, and deteriorating relations between Egypt and the Obama administration which has suspended military aid to the junta estimated at more than $1.5 billion annually.

Sixth: there are indicators that the Government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey is shifting its stance under mounting US pressure and Syrian allegations that it is supporting “terrorism” over the border in Syria. Turkey is starting to impose restrictions on the movement of jihadist groups across Turkish territory and has frozen some bank accounts belonging to known extremist groups.

Turkey also fears an explosion of sectarian and ethnic conflicts at home, mirroring those already tearing Iraq and Syria apart (the latter also shares Turkey’s Kurdish ‘problem’).

Seventh: widening gaps between the various elements within the Syrian opposition, and the lack of a unified universally representative umbrella. The armed opposition is now dominated by armed jihad groups and riven with division; there are frequent clashes between the Free Syrian Army and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.Popular support for the first president of the opposition, Dr. Burhan Ghalioun, is waning on Facebook.

Assad’s confidence

The Syrian President’s new confidence, and desire for rehabilitation, was reflected most clearly in his recent interview with German magazine Der Spiegel. He even admitted that he has made mistakes in the way he dealt with the initial protests and claimed that the truth lay in the ‘gray’ area not in stark black and white. He said he would negotiate with the opposition but only after it had thrown aside its weapons.

President Al-Assad has become something of a media star these days. He has won the media battle without losing his gains on the ground. To most observers he appears to have gone from being a besieged President with just a few days left in office, to a confident leader envisaging his own domination of the political scene years to come.

And he is not alone in wanting this outcome – the most unlikely recent twist in history suggests that the West has joined Russia and Iran in wanting it too.

 

Tags

Facebook Comments

comments

Video Player

Boko Haram’s leader pledges allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

The leader of the Nigerian Islamist militia group, Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The emir of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau

YouTube star Adam Saleh cries like a baby following “hate attacks”

American Muslim YouTube star, Adam Saleh sheds tears in his “Message To The World” after “hate attacks” following a recent tou

Will Scottish Muslims vote for independence?

Roshan Muhammed Salih traveled up to Scotland to get an idea of how Muslims feel about independence and what issues are at play for them as they get r

CCTV footage showing “Britani Brigade Bangladeshi Bad Boys” leaving for Syria

Five men who left Britain last year have been shown on CCTV footage leaving for Syria via Turkey to join the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

Video: British Imams reject ISIS ideology

In response to the murder of American journalist James Foley by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a group of British imams have made a sho

Greater Manchester Police officers using excessive force at pro-Palestine demo

Video showing Greater Manchester Police officers using excessive force when arresting peaceful pro-Palestine protesters. Police reported “minor dis

Yasir Qadhi urges Western Muslims not to go to Syria for jihad

Prominent American scholar and preacher, Yasir Qadhi has urged Muslims living in the West not to go and fight in Syria. In a video posted on his YouTu

Racist American woman threatens to kill Muslim motorist and his family

A female motorist apparently in Durham, North Carolina, gets very upset about a car incident and calls the other driver “a son of a Muslim, nigg

Armed Egyptian Hilwan Brigade fed up with “Muslim Brotherhood’s peacefulness”

A video has emerged showing a new Egyptian armed group, the “Hilwan Brigade” who say they are fed up with the Muslim Brotherhood’s p

Human Rights Watch video: Mass killings by Egypt security forces

Human Rights Watch has said that the systematic and widespread killing of at least 1,150 demonstrators by Egyptian security forces in July and August

Video: Saudi opens doors of Kaaba to President Sisi

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and his accompanying delegation performed Umrah rituals on Sunday and the Holy Kaaba was opened in honor of hi

Documentary: Trojan Horse witch-hunt against Birmingham Muslims

Birmingham Muslims are up in arms after several schools in majority Muslim areas were placed in special measures after months of sensational media sto

YouTube stars TruestoryASA bring Marble Arch to standstill

Two American YouTube celebrities were escorted by the police after they brought Marble Arch to standstill yesterday with a frenzied rendezvous with fa

Footage from Jerusalem in 1896 under the Ottoman Empire

Earliest recorded footage of Palestine and Jerusalem from the year 1896. Muslims, Jews and Christians lived next to each other peacefully under the au

VIDEO: Al Qassam Brigade attack Israeli military base

Video footage showing Hamas’ military wing, Al Qassam Brigade attacking an Israeli military base via an underground tunnel and killing a soldier

Shocking video of Israelis celebrating bombing of children in Gaza

Video footage of Israelis celebrating the bombing of children in Gaza. The video was filmed on Saturday 26th July, while women and children were being

GEO TV report: Muslims celebrated Eid on wrong day

Prominent Pakistani TV station GEO is reporting that religious scholars in the country have admitted that Eid should have been celebrated on Tuesday a

Prime Minister David Cameron’s Eid al-Fitr message

Prime Minister David Cameron’s Eid message to British Muslims.

Eid dinner for Muslims without Muslim families

Sadly for many Muslim converts, Eid is not a day of happiness but a day of sadness. The reason for this is many of them do not have Muslim families. S

New Armed Forces Muslim forum launched

The Defence Secretary says he wants more British Muslims to join the Armed Forces. Michael Fallon made his first public speech since taking up the job

Pro-Palestinian protesters attack Maccabi Haifa players

Video footage showing pro-Palestinian protesters invading the football pitch in a friendly game between Israel’s Maccabi Haifa and France’

The secret world of FBI informants

Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit takes you inside the shadowy world of FBI informants and counterterrorism sting operations. Following the 9/11 a

HSBC issues notice to Ummah Welfare Trust to shut down account

HSBC bank has issued Muslim charity, Ummah Welfare Trust (UWT) a two-month notice to shut down its account. A similar “notice” was issued

Extremist Hindu MP forces Muslim caterer to break his fast

Video footage showing a right-wing Indian MP forcefully feeding a Muslim while he’s fasting. The footage, aired on national television, shows a grou

Israeli terrorist soldiers gas themselves

Israeli terrorist soldiers, who are very accustomed to tear gassing Palestinians at demonstrations, gas themselves as they get stuck in a military veh