Al-Asad’s deft moves prior to Syrian election

Developing Just Leadership

Yusuf Dhia-Allah

Sha'ban 03, 1435 2014-06-01

Main Stories

by Yusuf Dhia-Allah (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 43, No. 4, Sha'ban, 1435)

Bashar al-Asad seems set to win the June 3 election, not by rigging but winning people’s confidence frustrating the Western-Arabian inspired conspiracy against his government.

By a combination of deft moves, Syrian President Bashar al-Asad has regained most of the ground he had lost as a result of the foreign-instigated and sponsored rebellion in the country. These moves come on the eve of presidential elections scheduled for June 3 in which two candidates — Maher Abdel Hafiz Hajjar and Hassan Abdallah al-Nuri — will run against al-Asad. Both are lawmakers, one from Aleppo and the other from Damascus, and are affiliated with opposition blocs in the country. Neither is linked to the current insurgency that has devastated the country.

On May 4, Syria’s Supreme Constitutional Court announced that Maher Abdel Hafiz Hajjar, Hassan Abdallah al-Nuri and Bashar al-Asad were qualified to run for president of the country. Under the constitution, each candidate must secure the support of at least 35 lawmakers in the 254-member parliament to be eligible to run. Each MP is allowed to back only one candidate. The election must be held between 60 and 90 days before al-Asad’s seven-year term ends on July 17. While the scheduled date for election is June 3, Syrians residing abroad have been scheduled to vote on May 28. These votes will be cast at Syrian missions abroad.

By a combination of deft moves, Syrian President Bashar al-Asad has regained most of the ground he had lost as a result of the foreign-instigated and sponsored rebellion in the country.

International observers report from inside Syria that al-Asad has broad popular support among the people because they are tired of three years of war. The country has been ruined as a result of a foreign-inspired conspiracy costing more than $100 billion in infrastructure damage. People want peace and stability and believe al-Asad is the person that can bring this about.

Militarily, his forces have made steady progress against the mercenaries, especially in Homs province whose principal city of the same name was emptied of all rebel fighters early last month. The deal was brokered by the UN, Iran and Russia. For the first time in two years, Syrian forces entered the heart of the city and people started to return to their homes, albeit in complete ruin.

The Homs deal enhanced al-Asad’s standing as a conciliator willing to make compromise to bring about peace in the country. More than 1,000 rebel fighters were allowed to leave the city where they were holed up for two years surrounded by Syrian government forces. At the same time, these forces have continued their operations against the mercenaries and have holed them up in the north of the country near the border with Turkey.

Al-Asad’s resilience has frustrated his enemies, both at home and abroad... By comparing al-Asad to Muammar Qaddafi of Libya, his enemies made a number of strategic errors...

Al-Asad’s resilience has frustrated his enemies, both at home and abroad. What was believed to be a regime ripe for the picking has not only survived the three-year onslaught but also managed to make steady progress against opponents. The “ripe for the picking” theory was predicated on a number of faulty assumptions. By comparing al-Asad to Muammar Qaddafi of Libya, his enemies made a number of strategic errors. They assumed that once the uprising began, the Syrian army would face massive defections. Similarly, the establishment would crack by offers of lucrative positions in the post-Asad era a la Libya. Neither assumption has come true. The hope that the regime would collapse within months if not weeks has not materialized either; instead the regime has survived for three years and is getting stronger.

How al-Asad’s fortunes changed needs careful study. First, both Russia and China refused to go along with the no-fly resolution in the UN Security Council. Both countries were furious at the manner in which they were double crossed by the West into imposing a no fly zone on Libya, only to have it turned into a shooting gallery. Ultimately, it was the West’s massive bombing of Libya killing tens of thousands of civilians and finally locating Qaddafi himself as he was trying to escape the country that brought down the Libyan regime. Further, Russia has a lot more at stake in Syria with its naval base at Tartous on the Mediterranean coast than it had in Libya. Moscow was not going to offer another ally on a plate to the West.

Faced with a Russian-Chinese veto, the West, especially the US was left with the difficult choice of launching an illegal aerial attack on Syria. But Syria is no Libya; its Russian supplied air defence systems are formidable and American pilots may have ended up as prisoners of war, a prospect no American politician would like to countenance anymore. Even with allegations of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime that was declared a “red line” by US President Barack Obama, an allegation that turned out to be false, Obama had no stomach for launching another war. Islamic Iran, an ally of Syria also made clear that such an attack would be considered a declaration of war against itself (Iran and Syria have a defence pact) and Tehran would not remain a silent spectator. Suddenly, Obama was faced not merely with Syria but also with Russia and Iran. With America’s economy already in the dumps, the US could not afford another costly war.

The Syrian opposition the US and its allies were counting on also turned out to be completely incompetent. The so-called Syrian National Coalition (SNC) — it has undergone a number of name changes — turned out to be so aloof from reality inside Syria that even their sponsors realized they could not be relied upon. America’s experience in Libya where the US ambassador was murdered in cold blood in September 2012 by the very Libyan militia that the US had trained and armed dampened Washington’s appetite for further adventures.

Whatever little remaining enthusiasm was drained out by the barbaric acts of the foreign sponsored mercenaries against civilians inside Syria. Public beheadings of perceived opponents as well as Christians, strangling girls to death and cannibalism were too much even for the Americans, who seldom have much regard for other people’s lives, especially Muslims. Having lost Libya to the savages, would America want to hand over a crucial country like Syria into the hands of another bunch of hoodlums? Belatedly, Obama realized he was being pushed into a quagmire. He was faced with a number of difficult choices; by not launching a war against Syria, he upset long-time ally Saudi Arabia but there is a strong body of opinion in Washington that believes the House of Saud is on its way out. Ruled by octogenarians, the Saudi regime is becoming a liability.

The terrorists operating in Syria are financed by the Saudi regime as well as Qatar and Turkey. These terrorists have eclipsed the moderate elements of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA). Today, groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), Jabhat al-Nusrah and Islamic Front hold sway in Syria as well as terrorize people in parts of Iraq. Their cells have been discovered in Saudi Arabia itself. These reactionary organizations have also attracted alienated Muslim youth from the West — Britain, France, Germany and elsewhere. The Western regimes have realized that once the war in Syria is over — and it cannot go on forever — these battle-hardened fighters will return and will cause havoc for Western societies — chickens coming home to roost. Even some elements within the Saudi regime have realized the danger these monsters pose for their survival.

Thus, the very people the West and its Muslim puppet regimes were relying on have proved untrustworthy. The greatest setback has been the resilience of the Asad regime. In recent months, Syria has also created its own militia that provides much-needed relief for the over-stretched army. The militia is growing in strength as well as numbers. Increasing numbers of Syrians appalled by the brutality of the mercenaries are willing to step forward to help the regime not so much out of love but for the sake of Syria itself. And they certainly do not want to see Syria turned into a Wahhabi hellhole. They would rather maintain the pluralistic nature of Syrian society with the strongest Sufi traditions in the entire Muslim East.

It would seem the worst is over for Bashar al-Asad. The June 3 election will simply confirm what people have said for quite a while: there is nobody better suited to rule Syria than him at the present time. Instead, it is quite likely that the hole the Saudis were digging for al-Asad may end up swallowing them up. It would come none too soon.

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