Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has proven that he is not a leader that can be toppled in a couple of months. He has played his cards well and managed to turn the situation in his favor.
He made use of the support offered by the Iran-Russia-China trio, and to a certain degree he has managed to control the internal opposition and external pressure facing his regime. Assad’s other significant gain has been the domestic loyalty he has been able to generate. This owes to the fact that the opposition has remained fragmented and unable to move in a united fashion, thereby scaring off external assistance. Assad’s internal support finds its roots in the country’s Kurdish and Christian communities, who fear a radical Islamist takeover were Assad to fall. They cannot overcome their doubts, and they therefore see Assad as the "lesser of evils.” This has relaxed some of the pressure on the Syrian government.
UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and CIA chief David Petraeus came to Ankara for a reason. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan receives calls from European capitals asking, “What are you planning to do?” Turkey is still the key country for the Syrian crisis both in terms of its geography and the interest it has in the crisis, together with the attitude it has adopted toward Syria.
However, those who want Assad out — with Turkey in first place — are in a tough spot. The Syrian opposition has turned out to be more fragmented than expected. Unable to instill confidence, it has not received the arms and financial support it needs to effectively confront the regime. Therefore, Assad is slowly eradicating the internal opposition, taking back the cities it has occupied one by one. Its fifth-largest such operation is about to be concluded, which means that very soon there will be no pockets of resistance left.
But then what? It is a very difficult situation for Assad and there will be no rest for his regime. He will have to run a country that is constantly boiling, a country whose neighbors will try to instigate conflict and smuggle weapons in. Before, we gave him a few months in office. Now, it is a few more years. Ankara finds itself in a corner — Turkey does not want to be seen deposing a neighboring country’s government. Hence, our reluctance to arm and finance the opposition, an attitude for which the opposition forces have harshly criticized us. Washington wants to use Turkish territory, but it doesn’t know which opposition faction to aid. The US wants the opposition groups to unite but they have thus far been unable to do so.
There are now efforts to form a "new approach, but it is not clear what this is going to be or how this is going to end. We face a long road ahead.
Yes, Assad will go one day. However, it is not yet known if his departure will be bloody or bloodless.
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