Hezbollah Chief Shifts Public Stance toward Assad

Article Summary
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has moved from secretly advising Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to publicly admonishing the regime and calling for a political solution to the Syrian conflict, writes Talal Salman, who adds that the opposition’s silence over bombings in Damascus and Aleppo has weakened its position.

The bloodshed and horror witnessed in Syria today  including the atrocious mass murders being perpetrated in residential neighborhoods and near houses of worship and schools  are no longer the results of a clash between an iron regime which rejects all dissent and an opposition “fighting” for freedom, democracy and political pluralism.

Tragedy defines the daily reality in Damascus, Aleppo and other areas, and the killing of men, women, children, bystanders and those merely struggling to find food continues. This tragedy can no longer be attributed to an armed expression of the growing opposition to the regime's pledges to reform. Though the regime has already taken steps to effect these reforms, progress has been very limited, which falls short of the Syrian people’s aspirations. Those opposing the regime see reforms in their homeland as their natural right.

The “situation on the ground” began to deteriorate after the recent bombings perpetrated by “unknown forces.” These bombings were massacres  they claimed the lives of dozens of innocent citizens and spread fear throughout the country. More than that, they have invalidated any existing notion that those responsible were leading a legitimate political struggle. The bombings have shifted the unknown perpetrators from the category of oppositionists to that of killers. There is a perception that murderers are now seeking to destroy all of Syria  its state, its people and its economy  apart from those opposition bodies and organizations demanding the toppling of the regime.

The opposition, particularly that which is based abroad  including the diaspora and those groups competing over the “future authority” of Syria  is committing a political mistake by essentially endorsing these brutal operations. It presumes that failing to denounce the criminal nature of the violence will somehow benefit its cause. These bombings nullify the possibility for political action; they aim to destroy any projects or attempts for a political solution to the grave crisis sweeping Syria. What’s more, any further delay in finding a conclusive solution to the crisis opens the door wider to civil war.

The regime’s violent confrontation of domestic opposition groups has already wasted many chances of reaching a political solution to the deadly crisis that is threatening the unity of the people and the state. This, however, did not prevent some from trying to invent a solution. Russia and China are currently leading these efforts.

The regime is now more aware that the current security solution is driving Syria toward division, especially given the “fraternal effort” being undertaken by the oil-rich states to complicate the crisis and push it further toward its dangerous apex. They have done so by incapacitating the role of the Arab League. They have gone so far as to use this prestigious institution  of which Syria is a founding member  to legitimize “international intervention” by taking the issue to the UN Security Council. The Russian-Chinese veto foiled this plan, but it did so on the condition that the Syrian authority would accelerate the reform process and reinforce its institutional foundations. Russia and China wanted more than mere cosmetic changes while the oppressive nature and cruelty of the regime was preserved. Indeed, the Syrian regime accuses anyone opposing it of foreign espionage.

Now, out of concern for Syria  the state and its people  Hezbollah’s leadership has moved from secretively advising the Syrian regime and its president to public announcements by (Hezbollah) Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

Last Thursday, "the Sayyed” openly and directly addressed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition. He called for the adoption of a political solution, and stressed that this was the only option that would break the bloody impasse facing Syria.

Before announcing his proposal, Nasrallah expressed concern for Syria  and therefore for the surrounding region  regarding the possibility of division, civil war and chaos. He lamented that the conflict was weakening Syria and its role as a bastion for the Arab allies in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Sayyed urged the authority and the opposition to reexamine the situation in order to reach a political solution. He said, “This means that [both sides should] simultaneously lay down their weapons and engage in a clear and systematic political discussion within an agreed-upon framework. Any other option would mean drawing out the issue further…and those who have so far sought the fall of Syria or the regime at any price have not been able to do so.”

It is safe to assume that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad does not have a friend so keen on him personally and so appreciative of Syria's role in supporting the Lebanese resistance as the Sayyed. Out of concern for Syria, Nasrallah emphasized that “there are people in Syria who want reform, but do not want division, a civil war, a sectarian war or carnage. They also do not want to see betrayal or moderation on the part of the Arabs. These people want to remain resistant, rejectionist and loyal to Palestine.”

Conversely, it is almost certain that the brutal bombings that first targeted the heart of Damascus and later a church and a school in the Aleppo suburbs surpass the capabilities of the “tourist opposition” which is roaming world capitals begging for foreign  military rather than political  intervention. The bombings also harm the Syrian opposition, as they exclude it from the upcoming political equation.

“Terrorism,” a skill of those fundamentalist groups either imported from abroad or hiding in certain parts of Syria, has intentionally and blatantly raised its ugly head at a crucial time, and for a dual purpose. It might drag the regime further into bloodshed, which would close the door to a political solution while neutralizing the political opposition or exposing its impotence. In both cases, all of this might nullify the role that “politics” may play in finding a solution to pull Syria  the sate and its people  out of the present bloody, grinding cycle that threatens its future.

The regime has flexed its muscles for too long while failing to resolve the crisis or foster the conditions necessary for a political settlement. It has been asked now directly to stop the killing machine and address the difficult task ahead. This will require that its put its faith in the homeland and its people rather than in its military strength. The regime must take the initiative in starting a serious and immediate dialogue with the national opposition  of which the main figures remain in the country despite all of the temptations they face to leave. However, the dialogue must also include those opposition figures whose destinies have forced them to be or remain abroad, either out of fear of reprisal or due to diminishing hope that the regime would use its mind rather than its guns.

For the regime, acting late is better than never when it comes to working out a political settlement that would preserve Syria and its own continued role.

In any case, how would the regime benefit from a civil war or division in Syria? President Assad has warned against this as if the power to prevent it (through the acceleration of political dialogue) rested in the hands of others.

This is the last chance to salvage Syria from the threat of division through sedition, sedition that has opened the door wider to foreign interferences which aspire to destroy Syria’s national unity and open the gates of hell onto the whole region, starting with Lebanon. This turmoil will spread all the way to Iraq (along with Jordan), perhaps passing through Bahrain on its way to Yemen. This is not to say that the oil-rich states will be immune to the horrors of the upcoming national catastrophes, which will take place against a backdrop of international complicity and “Islamic” inattention. This lethargy will be a result of the euphoria that some Islamic organizations are experiencing. Out of a lack of awareness, these organizations assume that they can only rise to power through national tragedies which by eliminating “yesterday’s contenders” leave room for no one but themselves.

Found in: un security council, un, syrian crisis, syrian, sayyed hassan nasrallah, political solution, hezbollah, bashar al-assad, arab league, arab

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