It all began in a school in Daraa in southern Syria. Students fed up with the behavior of the principal organized a demonstration saying "The people want to get rid of the principal." This was only one month after the fall of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, while the rebellion in Libya was just starting out. So the head of the Baath party in Daraa got overly anxious and sent intelligence agents to protect the educational image of the school.
Children were arrested and their mothers came to ask for their release, the police made indecent propositions, and all hell broke loose in Daraa, which soon became violent demonstrations throughout Syria with many dead and still dying. Thousands have been killed, many more injured making orphans out of children, while parents have seen their children die. Bashar Assad lost his legitimacy to stay in power. But that is still a long way from his actually losing power.
Next week will see the first anniversary of the events in the Daraa school. Assad will mark that year with a victory over the city of Homs. During a one month artillery bombardment, Assad's forces have captured the three neighborhoods controlled by the rebels. The price has been 700 dead, the vast majority civilians. Despicable as it has been, this is a victory that will be a turning point in favor of the ruling regime in its struggle with the rebels, which began with the innocent cry of help from the children of Daraa.
Unless there is a dramatic change of fortune Syria's President Bashar Assad may well get through the crisis, and against all odds, hang onto power. With a charge sheet alleging war crimes and genocide, an international boycott and the burning hatred of his own public, the coming years will be very difficult for him, but no more difficult than the past year. The question being asked over the past year was how will he survive? But the question being put should have been a more realistically how will he be deposed?
Despite so many deserters, most of the Syrian army remains loyal to the regime. This is an army controlled by injustice, clans-people of the president and his Druze allies. While senior officers do not abandon their posts, the army will continue to suppress the rebels with a strong hand. Nor is the other source of hostility to the regime ready to take action. The international community shows no signs of uniting in a military operation against Assad. It pins its hopes on the Sino-Russian veto in the UN Security Council that exempts it from taking action against Damascus.
The silence of the world is no surprise. The default position of the world has always been to remain silent. Even Israel, which arose following the biggest war crime in history, has made do with the faintest of condemnation of Damascus. It is human to want to assist the weak, but even more human to shelter in mother's arms when a storm is raging outside. Who are the Syrians that the sated French, cynical British and calculating US should endanger the lives of their soldiers and waste valuable ammunition?
For one moment last summer, there was a feeling that the world was uniting in a just military campaign to save the Syrian people, resembling what happened in Iraq and Libya. But it was an illusion. In Iraq and Libya the West deposed dictators out of egoism not in the cause of higher values. The US needed revenge after 9/11 and coveted Iraqi oil.
The military operation in Libya was led by France's President Sarkozy, probably as a demonstration of leadership towards his EU colleagues. He dragged Washington and London after him, claiming that his motives were to defend the repressed civilians of Libya. These moral reasons suddenly disappeared from his vocabulary when Assad began committing atrocities against his own people which were far worse than those of Qaddafi in Libya.
So for now the world is not intervening in Syria because there is no good reason to do so. Genocide was never a good enough reason for the international community to lift a finger.
The consensus is that the world's leaders will continue to sit by, indifferent to the Syrian carnage, and will conduct their campaign against Assad using public relations methods, such as the EU decision to freeze the banking assets of the Syrian government and heads of the Baath party, even though the Syrian leadership does not hold bank accounts in Europe. Even these feeble measures as well as impractical declarations, pompous conferences and toothless sanctions have a function. Their aim is to generate an atmosphere of noise to cover up the silence.
Jacky Hougy is the Arab affairs commentator for “IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal).
Published by Globes, Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 4, 2012
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