Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is out of options

November 19, 2011

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is out of options. Source: RIA Novosti

On Friday, Western countries will introduce a new draft resolution in the UN Security Council denouncing the Syrian authorities for violently suppressing public protests. They are urgently preparing the text, having received the support of Arab nations. The majority of Arab leaders no longer believe that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will be able to hold on to power.

It is becoming increasingly clear that we are witnessing regime change in Syria.

Three days will not save al-Assad

The new draft resolution comes just two days after the Arab League presented the Syrian leader with an ultimatum. The Arab League adopted its appeal to al-Assad at a ministerial meeting in Morocco’s capital Rabat on November 16. In the beginning of the meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that “the Syrian regime has failed to meet its commitments to end violence and will dearly pay for this.”

However, despite growing mistrust of the Syrian president, Arab League ministers decided to give him another three days to restore peace in the country. The deadline is Saturday night. All shooting must end before this deadline. In addition, the Syrian authorities must sign a protocol allowing Arab League observers to enter the country in the next few days.

Time is running out. However, this ultimatum does not really sound like a last chance. Obviously, neither the Arabs nor the Turks believe that their mediation will be successful. Rather they are preparing for even greater upheavals in Syria. The ultimatum is a mere formality. It seems that meeting participants were more interested in buying time for themselves to think, not for al-Assad.

It is hard to believe that stability will return to Syria when this deadline expires.

Moreover, the end to violence depends not only on the president and his entourage but also on the opposition, which is aware that foreign support is growing. Now that the regime is weakening, the opposition has no reason to agree to talks. New demonstrations may be held in Syria on Friday.

Arabs and Turks to join sanctions

Western diplomats are drafting a new Security Council resolution in close cooperation with the Arabs and Turks without waiting for the Syrian president’s reply. They want the vote to take place on November 22 and no longer believe that peaceful resolution is possible. The number of victims in the 8-month Syrian conflict is approaching 4,000.

Attempts to isolate the Syrian regime continue. If deliberations of the draft resolution are dragged out due to the resistance of Russia or China, unilateral measures to stifle the regime will continue. Europe and America have already imposed new sanctions on Syria.

Turkey is cancelling arms and energy contracts with its neighbor. The 22-member Arab League suspended Syria’s membership on November 16 and is working on plans for an economic embargo.

Russia calls for pressure on the opposition

Moscow is critical of these plans, and has criticized the Europeans, Americans, Turks and Arabs for their unabashed support of regime change in Syria. Veniamin Popov, director of the MGIMO Center for the Partnership of Civilizations and former ambassador to a number of Arab countries, told me that “this road may lead to a civil war in Syria.”

Popov believes it was a mistake to suspend Syria’s membership in the Arab League: “It would make more sense for the Arabs to support Russia’s efforts to reconcile the opposing sides in Syria, but to do this they should bring pressure to bear not only on the authorities but also on the opposition.”

Russia’s official position is the same. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday: “It is necessary to put an end to violence in Syria, no matter who is committing it. It is not only government agencies that are responsible. More and more weapons are being smuggled into Syria from neighboring countries.”

Lavrov believes the civil war is imminent in Syria. On November 16, Syrian army defectors attacked a counterintelligence complex on the edge of Damascus, killing six officers and leaving dozens wounded. The Syrian Free Army claimed responsibility for the attack. On Thursday, its militants shelled offices of the ruling Ba’ath party around the country.

Turkey is considering the possibility of deploying troops in Syria to create a buffer zone in the country’s north if the situation deteriorates. The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition group, announced on Thursday that “the Syrian people would react more calmly to an intervention by Turkey rather than by the West, if its actions are aimed at protecting civilians in Syria.”

RIA Novosti (www.en.rian.ru)

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