After al-Assad, what then?


The Syrian revolution and Al Assad’s potential fall is part of the same scenario that was repeated in many Arab countries, which the West romanticizes and idealizes by calling the “Arab Spring”. Months passed and regimes fell, but in most Arab countries, Libya in particular, the results have been regional and sectarian divisions, conflicts, and economic crises.

The “Arab Spring” began with a fact. The presidents of the Arab countries concerned – Gaddafi, Ben Ali, Saleh of Yemen, al-Assad, Mubarak – were dictators who had serious flaws that brought about their downfalls. The corruption and election rigging that took place under them weakened their positions. Then along came the United States, France and Qatar who provided revolutionaries with moral support and arms, as well as media channels to promote revolutions in the global arena.

Not revealed was that the new revolutionary forces were neither intellectually prepared nor organized enough for a unified and orderly takeover. This resulted in the turning of the Arab Spring into autumn and autumn is now on the verge of becoming winter, as I said in a speech at a UNESCO conference last year.

Egypt was blessed with being the only country not threatened by regional or sectarian divisions because of its strong national army that was independent of the ruling party, as well as the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood, a large unified organization that came to power and was able to bring about some stability.

In Syria, of course, the situation was different from the outset because of the presence of the Baath Party, which controls the government and military. And international pressures, both political and media driven, have succeeded in creating fractures in the Syrian state, as well as giving credence to the idea that that there is a Sunni – Alawi conflict. Although this interpretation of the roots of the conflict is incorrect, it has led to Saudi Arabia adopting a strong pro-revolutionary stance.

My answer to the question I posed in the title of this article, “After Assad, what then?” may anger many people. I predict that we will find ourselves facing a severely divided nation and a much-weakened Arab force.

Not only is there the potential for a bloodbath between Sunnis and the Alawites who ruled Syria with an iron grip for almost half a century, but there are rumors that Turkey, France and Qatar would like to see Aleppo become an autonomous region. And, while waiting for loans and aid that may be granted too late, if ever, the Syrian economy will certainly collapse.

Syria, like other Arab countries, will pay for their historical isolation and rejection of even the minimum of Arab unity. Those choices have already resulted in the breaking of the Arab will and the splintering of the Arab position on the international scene. Because of this lack of unity, Arab countries have more easily fallen into traps and plots arising from foreign agendas that have nothing to do with their own national interests.

Unfortunately, Arab countries were not intelligent enough to grasp the European model and see that the differences among Germany, France and Italy in language, culture, or policy are much larger than those among Arab countries. Yet, those differences did not prevent Europeans from uniting economically under the euro, or from having the minimum of coordination in their political stances.

As for the U.S. and Israel, it appears that the hard-line taken by the United States towards Syria is due to Syria’s strong relationship with Iran, as well as frustration at Russia and China for their vetoes of all three U.N. Security Council resolutions intended to pressure the Syrian regime.

Israel’s recent stance in favor of Syrians revolutionaries probably stems from the Syria’s alliance with Iran. At the beginning, Israel hesitated to come out in support of the revolutionaries because of fears that a radical Islamic regime that would rise to power and insist upon the return of the Golan Heights.

There is every reason to believe that the fate of Syria might be similar to that of Iraq after President Bush’s unprovoked invasion causing over 100,000 civilian casualties, endless conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, and the autonomy of the Kurdish region. If Syria is to suffer the same fate as Iraq, it means that almost half of the Arab world will become as powerless as a sick man.

translated from Le Monde diplomatique Editions Arabes

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