Syria’s Assad a tragic figure

Monday December 17 2012


President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is increasingly looking like a tall ship captain in doldrums.

Rats, so to speak, voraciously gnaw their way toward his cabin, others, from outside, add holes to the hull. Would-be rescuer doubts the ship is worth saving.

A crude analogy this might seem. But what’s other to make of the following?

Assad’s supporters retain fire galore. Nevertheless, armed opponents who would otherwise be killing each other, steadily gain ground.

Last week their international supporters pledged more support. In Russia, a staunch Assad supporter, a top diplomat advised possible rebel victory.

Meanwhile, US President Barak Obama threw his country’s weight behind the Friends of Syria, a diplomatic collective of nations and organisations.

It operates outside the UN Security Council to accelerate Assad’s ouster. That’s because Russia and China use veto powers to prevent the council from taking measures to oust Assad.

Hours before the group’s meeting of more than 100 nations got underway in Marrakesh, Morocco, on Tuesday, Obama embraced Syrian rebels’ National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as the legitimate representative of theSyrian people.

As expected, the Friends—some preceded Obama—did the same. A text of the endorsement reported by Reuters read:

“Bashar al-Assad has lost legitimacy and should stand aside and allow a sustainable political transition.” The group also announced the creation of a relief fund and pledged $140 million. Without promising arms, it agreed on “legitimate need of the Syrian people to defend itself against the violent and brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad.”

Here’s the catch. Sometime this week, western officials are reportedly to meet Syrian rebel commanders in Turkey, which wants Assad’s exit.

Now, military commanders discuss tactics and supplies, not diplomatic niceties.

All this is a continuation of activities plausibly heralding Assad’s exit and indicative of heightened desire to hasten it. First were warnings of “definite” or “serious” or “robust” international “response” were Assad’s government to use chemical weapons.

This implied knowledge Assad’s forces were approaching “Let’s-throw-everything-we-have” point.

Psychological warfare it might be. In Brussels, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Nato secretary-general, said, “I think the regime in Damascus is approaching collapse. I think now it’s only a question of time.”

The tragic figure in all this is Assad. Unlike the Tunisian, Egyptian or Libyan revolutions, Syria’s began innocently.

Kids wrote anti-Assad graffiti on walls. Rather than pull ears and spunk, authorities hauled the kids to jail and unleashed military might against protesting parents. “We have nothing to lose but our chains!” took over.