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

University of California students’ reaction to ISIS and Israel flags on campus

Pro-Israeli American Jewish filmmaker, Ami Horowitz, was “surprised” at the reaction he got from University of California students when h

Moazzam Begg on BBC Radio 4 – Returning British fighters

BBC Radio 4 speaks to Moazzam Begg regarding his view on returning fighters from Syria and the need to help them reintegrate them into society and not

VIDEO: Oxford Brookes Focus – Who are ISIS?

Deputy editor of 5Pillarz, Dilly Hussain, delivers a lecture on the origin of ISIS at Oxford Brookes University.  Syrian human rights activist Ghias

VIDEO: Islamophobia social experiment in London’s underground

YouTuber’s “Trollstation” try a social experiment in London’s underground when one of their actors spouts Islamophobic abuse t

Syria “hero boy” video was faked

Millions of YouTube viewers have been captivated by the “Syrian hero boy” who manages to rescue a little girl while under gunfire. Now a g

Lutfur Rahman blasts Eric Pickles and “media lies”

The mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, has blasted Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and the BBC in a rousing speech to his supporters in East Lo

Matthew Lester: Why I joined… and then left Britain First

In this short video Matthew Lester, a former member of the right-wing Islamophobic group Britain First, tells the story of why he left the group, his

VIDEO: Execution of Palestinian citizen by Israeli police

WARNING: This video shows disturbing footage of Israeli police shooting and killing a Palestinian youth! At least 30 Palestinians were arrested in the

Alchemiya: New Muslim digital web channel seeks funds to launch

A new online Muslim TV channel which will be targeted at the “global urban Muslim” is due to launch once it has raised around £300,000. A

VIDEO: Woman walks for five hours in NYC in hijab without harassment

In response to the video ‘10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman‘, another woman decides to carry out the same experiment. However, she wal

Video: Israeli soldiers invade Al Aqsa mosque

Israeli soldiers have invaded Al Aqsa mosque – the thid holiest site in Islam from where the Prophet Muhammad (saw) made his night journey. The

Sectarianism: Sunni-Shia debate

The Muslim world is undergoing its worst trauma in living memory. Across the Middle East Muslim is fighting Muslim. In some places the two major sects

BBC South: Portsmouth mosques release joint anti-extremism statement

In this report for BBC South, journalist Emma Vardy speaks to community leaders and the police about preventing extremism  after six British Muslims

Video: Canadians stand up to Islamophobia in wake of Ottowa shooting

A social experiment that ended with an actor posing as an Islamophobe getting punched in the face has shown that Canadians are prepared to defend Musl

Yasir Qadhi: Why are Muslims leaving Islam?

Most of us may know someone whose been through a crisis of faith or perhaps even know someone who is no longer a Muslim. Islam may be the fastest grow

Khat – “Money grows on trees in Yemen”

The production of khat – a flowering plant that, when chewed, produces a euphoric effect – is a lifeline for many in Yemen, particularly c

What’s life like for British Muslims?

British Muslims are more alienated than ever before, which is driving more people to embrace radical ideas. That’s what journalist Assed Baig fi

RT News interview Dilly Hussain on Ottawa shootings

In this interview with RT News, deputy editor of 5Pillarz, Dilly Hussain, explains how Canada’s involvement in the US-led military campaign agai

RT News interview Dilly Hussain on ISIS and online extremism

In this interview with RT News, deputy editor of 5Pillarz, Dilly Hussain, explains how the British government will not only be cracking down on ISIS s

Youtuber Adam Saleh reveals NYPD racial profiling video was fake

Muslim YouTubers, Adam Saleh and Sheikh Akbar have revealed their racial profiling “social experiment” video was staged. The footage showe

BBC South News – Portsmouth jihadists and Syria

In this exclusive report for BBC South News, journalist Emma Vardy questions the role of the mosque and community leaders after six British Muslims fr

The reality of anti-terror raids – Know your rights

Recently there has been a series of police raids, often using excessive force on the homes of young Muslims and their families across the UK. Indepen

BBC Inside Out – The journey to jihad in Syria

In this exclusive report for BBC Inside Out, journalist Emma Vardy follows the story of six British Muslim men from Portsmouth who left the UK to figh

New York policeman pushes YouTube stars against wall for wearing “Muslim clothes”

A shocking video that apparently shows a New York police officer pushing two Muslim men up against a wall just because of how they are dressed has spa

Press TV reporter said she feared Turkish authorities days before being killed

Press TV’s correspondent in Turkey, Serena Shim, has been killed in what the Iranian news channel calls a “suspicious car accident” near