Lebanon’s “An-Nahar” newspaper reported that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had told former [Lebanese] Prime Minister Omar Karami that “the story is over; we are pleased to have turned a page on these events. It is under control, we are no longer worried”. So has the situation in Syria truly settled down for the al-Assad regime?
I doubt it. Within 48 hours of this assertion, events occurred that proved this was not true when the formation of the Syrian National Council [SNC] was announced in Istanbul, with France being one of the first to welcome it. Following this announcement, various cities in Syria were engulfed in demonstrations in support of the SNC. News also spread that the al-Assad regime had targeted members of Burhan Ghalioun’s family, a prominent member of the Syrian opposition. Syrian reports also indicated that a statue of President Hafez al-Assad, the father of Bashar, had been destroyed, this time not in a Syrian village, but in the capital, the first statue in the capital to be destroyed!
Is this all? Of course not, observers are still waiting for the key details surrounding the assassination of the Syrian Grand Mufti’s son, for there are serious doubts about the official account from Damascus. An operation targeting the Grand Mufti’s son would be an indication that some things are now being plotted in the dark. Divisions are intensifying, especially now that resignations have begun to occur within the ranks of the Syrian media. In addition to this, there is the ever increasing series of military defections, and the continuing clashes between the al-Assad regime’s security forces and those who have defected from it.
All of the above, occurring within a timeframe of only two days, indicates that a page has been turned in Syria, but this is to the effect that the situation cannot return to how it was before the outbreak of the Syrian revolution. Al-Assad saying that he is comfortable, and no longer worried, means that the regime is unwilling to undertake any reforms, and there is no hope that this will happen, because al-Assad’s words [to Omar Karami] means that the Syrian only option that the Syrian regime is interested in is the security solution, and thus all the talk of political reform was nothing but a [political] maneuver. Here, some may ask: Is there anything new about the al-Assad regime not being capable of carrying out reforms, or did we really believe that it would?
The answer is no, of course not, but this is important as it represents further evidence for the countries that believe that the al-Assad regime will undertake genuine reforms to rectify the situation in Syria. The most prominent of these countries is Russia. So, with al-Assad saying that he is comfortable, and believing that the page of the revolution has been turned, this is proof that there is no hope for this regime, and this is the message that the Russians must understand today, just as the Turks quickly realized that the al-Assad regime was no longer credible. Until recently the Russians believed that the al-Assad regime was undertaking steps to create a dialogue between the regime and the Syrian revolutionaries, but the [Syrian] regime today believes that matters have settled down, and it is no longer worried, so what reforms is it set to undertake, what dialogue is it talking about, and who is trying to mediate on its behalf?
Thus, the page of the revolution has not turned, but perhaps the page that has turned is on those who want to believe the al-Assad regime, and its supposed promises of reform.
(The writer is the Editor-in-Chief of Asharq al-Awsat. The article was published in the London-based newspaper on Oct. 4, 2011.)