Tuesday, August 30, 2011

As If It Was Never Issued!

By Elias Harfoush
The Syrian leadership has resorted to the discourse of denial and rejection throughout its dealing with the popular protests over the past months. Indeed, it continued to act on the internal and external fronts as if these protests did not even exist. At the beginning, it considered that the protests of the Syrians who were only calling for reform – before they reached the point of calling for the ousting of the regime – were nothing but external germs that can only be treated by reinforcing the internal immunity in order to fight them off. When the protests expanded and Europe started to criticize the regime’s oppressive actions against them, Syria responded, through its interior minister, by crossing Europe off the world map. As to the American ambassador, he visited Hama following the massacre that was perpetrated there and stated that he saw no “armed gangs,” contrary to the regime’s claims. In response to that visit, the regime considered preventing the ambassador from making tours outside the capital. And at the beginning of Ramadan, the Syrian Minister of Endowments, Mohammad Abdel-Sattar al-Sayyed, announced that the crisis in Syria “has ended for good and Ramadan will mark the beginning of the end.”
However, the “germs” kept on spreading; Europe of course remained at the heart of the world map; and the American ambassador kept touring Syria. Meanwhile, the actions of the Syrian ambassador and his colleagues in the Syrian embassy in Washington were kept under scrutiny. As to Ramadan, it has now ended and the Fitr holiday has come, but the crisis in Syria continues to escalate.
And now, following the recent balanced statement issued by the Arab foreign ministers, which called for “reverting to reason before it is too late,” the discourse of denial and arrogance is still the same. Indeed, the Syrian leadership responded that it will deal with the statement as if “it was never issued.”
However, the policy of covering one’s eyes according to the “I see nothing, I hear nothing” approach no longer serves the regime. The latter can no longer use its stories about the “armed gangs” or its promises of reforms that will serve as an example to the world (!). The regime has lost all credibility and trustworthiness, even from the part of its closest friends and allies. Russian President Medvedev, whose delegate was received by the Syrian president yesterday, said a few days ago that “a sad fate is awaiting Al-Assad.” As to the Turkish President Abdullah Gul, he said yesterday that he has lost his faith in the Syrian president. He added: “We have clearly reached a point where anything will be insufficient and too late.”
There is no need to recall the positions of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan regarding the Syrian crisis and the attempts of his foreign minister to convince the Damascus leadership to abstain from using weapons as a means for a solution. There is also no need to recall the King Abdullah Ben Abdel-Aziz’s historic position, when he called for putting an end to the “killing machine” and the bloodshed in Syria. He considered that the ongoing events there “too massive to be justified by reasons.”
The Damascus regime chose to believe its own version after repeating it so many times. And in addition to denying and rejecting the stories heard and seen by the entire world every evening on the news, the regime kept on repeating its same version about the armed gangs, and reiterating its promises of its intended reforms. However, both stories lost their credibility with time: The regime failed to convince anyone – including its friends and old allies – with the story of the gangs, especially after it prevented the media from visiting the Syrian cities and covering the alleged “crimes” perpetrated by these gangs. The regime was also unable to convince the opposition figures with the promises of reform that also started to lose their credibility in light of the maneuvers related to their timing, and the controversial statements of the party or state officials regarding their possible limits.
The Damascus regime called for a consultative meeting last July in which discussions were held about “reform” ideas that dealt with the media and election laws and the constitutional amendments, including the canceling of Article 8 of the Constitution. At the time, I wrote a piece titled “The president wants to topple the regime!” where I stated that these promises, should they come true, are no less than a coup staged against the regime itself, by its own means and under its own supervision.
This was an inopportune assumption. A regime like the Syrian regime cannot reform itself, as this would imply its own demise. Currently, it seems that the regime has opted for keeping its old guise after its promises lost their shine and their credibility. However, this choice will have a hefty price on the regime and on the Syrians as well.
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 30/08/2011

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