Originally published in LastPoint.gr on Apr. 15, 2018
Bashar al-Assad took over power in Syria after his father’s death, when the constitution was modified so he could become president as he did not meet the age limit. Assad tried to improve the international image of the Syrian regime with superficial changes, such as public internet use and increased visits to Western countries. He also expanded economic relations with Turkey in a particularly impressive manner. At the same time he increased cooperation with the Iranian leadership and allowed Shiite clerics to spread their religion to a country where 85% of the population are Sunni Muslims. It also allowed Iran to create secret military bases on Syria and increased his support for the Hizbollah terrorist militia, which is responsible for the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri as well as for terrorist attacks in various countries.
The real situation in the country has not changed at all. The arbitrary arrests continued, as was the ban on the establishment of political parties. Economic corruption has more than doubled. Assad backed his cousin Rami Makhlouff to gain control of the country’s biggest economic projects, resulting in a fortune of over $ 90 billion.
All of the above has enraged the Syrian people who, with the spark of the Arab Spring, went down the streets and started their own revolution against the dictator and corruption, demanding freedom, equality and dignity.
The Syrian revolution to overthrow the regime began in March 2011 with peaceful demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of Syrians of all religions and doctrines. These demonstrations were confronted from the first day by bullets. Western and local reports confirm that during the first six months of the demonstrations, more than 20,000 civilians were shot dead by the security forces and the Assad army. What is surprising is that three months after the start of the demonstrations, the Assad regime announced the release of 270 detainees, all Islamist extremists arrested after the US attack on Iraq and who had participated in the war against the Americans. Many subsequent leaders of ISIS, Al-Nusra and other extremist organizations that began to appear a year after the start of the revolution belonged to the group of those who were released. What Assad did in reality was to turn the revolution from civil to military and from secular to Islamic. He put the international community in front of two choices: or he will rule in Syria or the jihadists. And he achieved his goal.
As the situation was complicated on the Syrian territory, many regional and international powers gradually began to interfere. Washington supported the Kurdish militias in the east of Syria turning them into a tool. Iran, which has a strategic partnership with the Assad regime, has begun sending troops to Syrian territory and creating militias from Iraq and Afghanistan to support Assad. Even the terrorist Hezbollah came to Syria to support him. We note here that on the arrival of the above militias, the Syrian opposition controlled 75% of the Syrian territory.
Moscow, after losing its last ally in the region, Saddam Hussein, has taken the opportunity of the Iranian forces’ failure to prevail over the Syrian opposition to return to the Middle East and increase its influence on the pretext of assisting Assad. The Gulf countries, on the other hand, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, supported the Syrian opposition in an effort to prevent Iran, their biggest enemy in the region, from taking over Syria. Turkey has continuously increased its support for the Syrian opposition to prevent the formation of a Kurdish canton on its southern borders that would threaten its national security. Within all these complications, the Syrian people continue to die every day for the last seven years.
Assad did not confine himself to killing his people only with conventional weapons and barrel bombs. That was not enough, so he used chemical weapons many times. In three cases, he used sarin gas, like 2013 in Eastern Ghouta, 2017 in Khan Sheikhoun and a few days ago in Douma. Chlorine gas has been used more than 100 times, according to many Western reports, including the United Nations. Impunity for the use of prohibited chemical weapons has made Assad use them again and again. But it seems that this time Washington has not been silent, as it happened under Obama’s hypocritical rule.
The massacres, murders and crimes committed on Syrian territory in the last seven years by a regime that has lost its legitimacy and the pursuit of satisfaction of the international and regional interests coveting the oil, natural gas and phosphorous minerals of Syria must stop. Otherwise, the conflict can be internationalized with disastrous results for everyone.