Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Lethal Illusions

By Abdullah Iskandar
The Syrian regime is operating on two concomitant levels to regain its previous control over the country, one which it exercised for decades and until the eruption of the protests around five months ago.
The first level is a security-military one based on some sort of “reoccupation” of the areas witnessing protests. The term “occupation” is justified by the massive military means used in these operations and the human and material losses they are inflicting on the different regions.
As for the second level, it is a political-diplomatic one based on the traditional Syrian method, through the media reproduction of the previous political trade which allowed the continuation of the control throughout the previous decades.
In both cases, there is a misguided wager on the possible success of the two methods, considering that the circumstances which allowed this success in the past and granted the rule a credibility that enabled it to contain the internal scene have drastically changed, whether on the Syrian domestic arena, regionally or internationally.
The big illusion prevailing over the decision-maker in Damascus is probably the belief that the act in itself will lead to the same results, regardless of the transformations affecting the facts. The Hama experience in 1982 might be an archetype followed by the decision-maker, seeing how – following this military campaign – calm prevailed throughout Syria until last March. Consequently, the decision-maker considers that the repetition of the campaign will restore its control, without taking into account the circumstances of the campaign on Hama. In reality, it was restricted to the city with a few limited extensions and was staged in light of a position adopted by the Syrian people toward the Islamic defiance represented by the Muslim Brotherhood at the time, regardless of the ensuing political exploitation of this popular rallying. Today, the repetition of the campaign to restore control requires military campaigns against the majority of the Syrian cities and towns. This not only means the emergence of enmity in the ranks of wide popular factions, but also a false wager on the possible military success. Indeed, even if the tanks and armored vehicles were to succeed in advancing in this or that location – alongside the killing, arrests and destruction – they will fail to re-impose awe, fear and silence, as it is revealed by all the signs accompanying the protests since their eruption.
Politically, the Syrian regime resorted to governmental change following the breaking out of the protests, but also to the changing of governors, the transfer of security officials and the appointment of a new defense minister during this stage, and maybe another later on, thus revealing that executive sides on the lowest levels are being held responsible. This was accompanied by the announcement of reforms which might be directed toward the external arena, considering that these reforms did not change anything on the ground and had no internal impact. In addition, it launched direct test balloons such as the national dialogue committee, and indirect ones such as the dialogue conference.
And whether these messages are directed toward the external or the internal arena, they are carrying no impact on the reality of the situation, which means that the decision-maker still believes that general and vague talk is enough to resolve such a complex crisis and that blaming others – by changing executive officials, claiming that the opposition does not want dialogue or focusing on the foreign conspiracy – are justifications that should convince the others to maintain the status quo. The decision-maker is even surprised that the justifications for his behavior are not persuasive, thus adopting a conceited and arrogant position when dealing with any serious attempt to resolve the crisis. This is yet another illusion since arrogance with threats will not succeed the way they did in previous circumstances, and rather led to reverse results by increasing the isolation and widening the condemnations targeting the policies of the Syrian regime.
These illusions – among others – are deepening the crisis and pushing toward its continuation and expansion. They are rendering the decision-maker completely cut off from the current reality, its circumstances and obligations, in a way that will lead the country down a path which will cause the loss of all the sides, including the rule whose illusions are turning into the cause of its death.
-This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 10/08/2011
-Abdullah Iskandar is the managing editor of al-Hayat in London

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