Originally published in the Arab daily newspaper “Al-Quds Al-Arabi”, issue 9020, p. 21, on Nov. 28, 2017
Yes … the Syrian revolution has been betrayed by all the international partners and the Arab brothers. Yes … minorities clung to the sectarian monster at the expense of freedom and democracy. Yes … the Syrian people knew that the neighbours, Arabs and Turks, were not worthy and did not have a strong personality. Yes, the hypocritical West after the Second World War in the name of human and animal rights did not feel the plight of the vulnerable in the Syrian sea of blood except from the perspective of refugees and terrorism. And yes, Assad the father built an empire of intelligence and a strong regional and international entanglement. But is this the end?
In the language of researchers with the knowledge of geography, reality in the Syrian territory shows that Assad is not “counting days” any longer, but he returned to spread east and north. The Islamic caliphate under the name ISIS in the language of the researchers of the jihadist groups is not the soldiers of the Dabiq* battle. It has so shrunk geographically and communication wise that it is likely to return to the caves of the Anbar desert. On the other hand, the Syrian armed opposition is divided into three parts. One, the forces of the so-called “Euphrates Shield” swears in Erdoğan’s life. The second satisfies the wishes of Jordan and Egypt in eastern Ghouta and south Syria. And the third is being thwarted by the plethora of secret services manipulating the internal conflicts networks in the Syrian north, but in one way or another, whether loved or hated, it is the last line of hope.
At a regional level, the strategies of the countries involved changed rapidly after Russia’s direct intervention, but the cornerstone was the fall of Halab**. The Qatar state has always been, in my personal opinion, the security valve of the Syrian revolution. For example, media support came through Al-Jazeera, which is even described by the most hostile to it as the people’s channel. Financial support was the only non-demanding political exchange. For the friends of this orphan revolution, the fall of Halab was the green light to redefine their strategy for Syria. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, fell in the depths of the battle of the next king’s throne, was not silently drawn from the Syrian crisis, but opened the file of relations with Qatar, which closed the Qatari refuge of the Syrian opposition.
Turkey, after the failed coup of July 2016, is not like before. The demand for the removal of Assad from his palace in Damascus disappeared from all speeches by the Turkish president and representatives of the Turkish government. The only Turkish interest in Syria is to use it as a paper in the international game. As for the West, it has limited its influence on post-war reconstruction, but I am sure that the acceptance of Assad’s survival, reiterated by the French and British Foreign Ministers and then denied, is a fact.
The US priorities, leaked from the meeting between Putin and Trump, are linked to three points that fully illustrate the setting. The first is the elimination of ISIS so that Trump appears to be a hero of the fight against terrorism. His military operations in less than a year have achieved what the Obama administration has not been able to achieve within two years, and does not need five or twenty years as predicted former US government officials. The second priority is Israel’s security by removing the Iranian presence and Hezbollah militia away from the border between Syria and Israel for more than 40 kilometers. In this way, Trump satisfies the US-Israeli lobby in principle and holds for Israel a window open for talks with the countries of the Gulf and direct diplomatic relations on the basis of common hostility to Iran. The third priority is to start a political process without substance, bypassing the transition period and accepting only the constitutional amendments and presidential elections in which Assad will be an important candidate. Thus, Washington will satisfy Moscow on the one hand and the Western public on the other hand that a democratic process will be conducted, that the elections will be monitored by the UN and that the Syrian people will succeed in freely choosing the person to take over the presidency.
Yes, the scene is bleak and yes, the Syrian Revolution’s opportunity to reach the demands of the people has been removed, but it is not as far as it was the first day when Assad with his army and secret services controlled the entire Syrian territory. What is different now is that the rebels have a stockpile of memory. They know that Arabs and foreigners are not real friends and that religious motivation is not the means to victory. America overthrew Saddam Hussein within a few days, announced a new government and reformed the Iraqi army. But did the Iraqis retreat and complied with what was imposed on them? No. The Iraqi people continue to transcend international plots and despite the fact that the radical groups have been painted with outside hands, this does not negate the fact that it is an Iraqi popular expression of rejection of reality.
Do not expect the Syrian people to be weaker than their neighbors. The current international equation is not a long-term strategy but rather a consensus that can change at any moment, and the intellectuals in the Syrian Revolution have to rearrange their papers and prepare for the next international shift to benefit from it in the fullest possible way. Hope will not be erased from the Syrian dictionary.
* Dabiq in Qu’ran is connected with the defeat of the Antichrist and the coming of Jesus Christ as the redeemer of the world.
** Halab is used as the the original name of Aleppo. An ancient city like Halab should not be renamed according to western languages. Ancient Hellenes (Greeks) called it Halyvon which derives from the Hellenic word for steel (halyvas) and probably originates from the ancient Amorite word halab (also meaning steel). Even in modern Hellenic (Greek) language, it is called Halepi. Forging history is a common practice of the West, and we all experience it. As a Hellene, I do not intend to be part of it.)