Bashar al-Assad must be finally seeing the writing on the wall: “You are done Mr. President!” One has to give him credit for staying the course and playing strongman for almost two years, a quality or vice many predicted he cannot pull off. Well, he did and he has survived so far the fate some of his Arab counterparts have faced. He remains in a position to negotiate his way out of the impasse. But, the clock is ticking, and his chances to step out with a saved face are fading by the second.
With the call Vice President Farooq al-Sharaa has made for a “National Unity Government,” it is clear that Syria is trying to avoid what could come: Namely, years of chaos, civil war, multiple foreign interventions, the ceremonial appearances of envoys from the UN, EU, US, Russia, Turkey, and many others.
This is a well-orchestrated Baath call for action, albeit not official and through a Lebanese media outlet in the form of an “honest” conversation. Does anything like this happen in Syria without the blessing of the President himself or without complete design by the Baath propaganda machine? I, for one, think not.
With this maneuver Syria could also be attempting to skip the would be politically motivated “Arab Deterrent Forces,” the ultimate deployment of western Peacekeeping Forces and the multitude of checkpoints with different banners, accents and flags dispersed all around the country, dividing it along sectarian lines many prefer to keep blurred at this point.
In simple terms, Assad and his entourage have surely learned from a game they mastered in Lebanon for over twenty years that allowing the situation to escalate beyond this point means entering a maze, similar to or worse than the one they once spearheaded and manned in Lebanon until it was broken down in 2005 through the Cedar Revolution.
The rhetoric in al-Sharaa’s call is very clear, it leaves no room to doubt the bankruptcy of the Assad regime and the desperation of the Baath. It screams the known truth that the Baath Regime cannot continue in its fight against the many factions already on the ground (revolutionaries, rebels or jihadists) and expect to win at the end.
Syria must make decisions immediately or risk the unthinkable. With Russia sending a clear message that it has finally given up on Assad, the US already discussing ways of getting involved militarily in Syria, and a civil war already raging with a death toll that swells by the day, it is reasonable to believe that President Assad is finally getting the message that it is time to go.
There are many options to make things worse and sink the country into a more desperate and self-destructing state; but very few options exist for a positive outcome for Syria.
The solution today seems to be the same one that was valid in March 2011 and ever since. Internally, the Baath party will have to sacrifice Bashar al Assad if it plans to survive this crisis. He now has lost his international, regional and domestic credibility. He will always be a liability in any attempt to move the country forward. If al-Sharaa and the Baath Party he must be speaking for are serious about the call for a government of national unity, then indeed, reforms should be ushered in and a new Syria will emerge which no one can predict what it will look like.
If Syrians realize what’s at stake now and if they indeed learned something from their experience in Lebanon, they would act swiftly and effectively to resolve their political issues, restore law and order, start mending the wounds of violence and division and build a new nation.
If, however, the plan is to stall during the harsh winter months and gain more time to stock up on arms and weapons, only to start all over again in the spring, then we can now wager that Syria’s civil war has just officially entered the abyss of history. Relatively speaking, the escalation, death toll and destruction Syria has seen in the past two years have surpassed Lebanon’s 15-year civil war.
Syria stands at a crossroad, with an opportunity to come out of its crisis and build a new nation for all. The alternative is simply more of the same and a bloody conflict that will end in everyone losing and accepting the crumbs of any deal that others design for them. For the sake of the good people of Syria and the souls of those who paid the high price, listening to al-Sharaa and seeing what the Baath is truly offering won’t undo the revolution, quite the contrary, it will legitimize and strengthen it.