#Syria, brave little girl in Hama, more courage than many men!
The growing opposition to Assad and the intensifying international calls for his downfall will ultimately bring about that fate for him. The only thing that remains unclear is how and when he will leave, and allow the Syrian people to rebuild their governance system and their country on a more rational basis, writes Rami G. Khouri.
Middle East Online
BEIRUT - We have learned many things about Syria during the past year, while some other things remain unclear. The most important thing we have learned is that President Bashar Assad is not the modern, liberal reformer that many had painted him as in the past decade. The truth is, nobody really knew the reality of Assad’s personality or political instincts. In the past year, since many of his own people have openly risen up against him and demanded his ouster, he has responded with consistent force and frequent inhuman tactics, lies, and broken promises, culminating to date in the two recent massacres of helpless villagers in Houla and Qubayr. We now know without any ambiguity what Assad represents, and what he will do, and it is very ugly.
He has pursued a policy that requires continued use of massive and cruel violence against his own people, with the expectation that he will terrorize and traumatize the Syrian population into submission. That policy has not worked in Syria, as it usually does not work for long in any other such authoritarian police state that relies on fear rather than legitimacy as its basis for authority and incumbency. Rather, his violent approach has only caused the rebellion against him and his circle of equally cruel rulers to grow, while also eliciting greater and greater regional and international support for the opposition that wants to bring down Assad and end the terrible security state that he and his father have managed for 42 years.
The growing opposition to Assad and the intensifying international calls for his downfall will ultimately bring about that fate for him. The only thing that remains unclear is how and when he will leave, and allow the Syrian people to rebuild their governance system and their country on a more rational basis. I wrote about 9 months ago that Assad had lost the critical legitimacy — at home, regionally, and internationally — that he needed to rule, and it was only a question of whether he would depart peacefully or through a bloodbath. I wondered then if Assad had it in him to recognize his loss of legitimacy, and initiate from the top the kinds of changes that Mikhail Gorbachev had done in Russia a generation ago. We now know the answer, which is that Assad is incapable of any peaceful reform process that brings about a democratic Syria or ends his family’s rule.
The most critical trend now underway is the improved performance and capabilities of the local opposition groups and some of the ones based abroad, resulting in patches of territory from which the government has withdrawn, and where opposition groups rule. As these areas expand, which is likely, the political and military ability of opposition groups to demoralize government troops and officials will expand steadily, bolstered by significant injections of Arab and foreign support. When the revolt against Assad started in late March 2011, most of the world thought that trying to bring about the removal this regime would result in local and regional consequences that were both too dangerous and unpredictable to risk. In the last year, Assad has pursued such an incalculably stupid policy that most of the world now feels that the dangers of allowing his regime to remain in power are greater than the dangers of toppling him.
The world has given the United Nations-Arab League plan of Kofi Annan many months to achieve a breakthrough, but without success, mainly because the Syrian government’s inability to stop killing its own people. I would guess that the next step now is for the international community that opposes Assad to explore formal diplomatic means of delegitimizing and strangling his government, by helping to form and then officially recognizing a unified Syrian opposition movement as the official government-in-exile of the Syrian people. This will not happen quickly, due to the fragmented nature of the Syrian opposition. The enticement of official international recognition — which has informally started with the support that opposition groups already receive from abroad – will probably hasten the movement to achieve minimum coordination among Syrian opposition movements inside and outside the country.
The increased sectarian nature of the killings in Syria are a problem, but a problem that has only recently emerged, and mainly due to the sectarian-based regime’s apparent determination to stoke this fire without considering its ultimate consequences. Neighboring Iraq is a sad example of what happens when sectarianism is allowed to become politicized and then militarized, leading to years or even decades of internecine violence.
We know much more now about Bashar Assad than we did last year, but we also know more about the people of Syria, who have demonstrated mind-boggling courage and determination to live as free and dignified citizens in a democratic and modern Arab state. That day is nearing.
Rami G. Khouri is Editor-at-large of The Daily Star, and Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, in Beirut, Lebanon.
10/02/12 http://news.sky.com/home/world-news/article/16167402 #Syria