The futility of dialogue with Syria's Assad

The futility of dialogue with Syria's Assad
Comment: Propped up by Iran, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad believes he is untouchable. He can raise the bar for talks, and the opposition can do nothing in reply.
6 min read
02 Feb, 2015
Assad does not acknowledge making any mistakes [Anas Aoud]
One did not need to wait for the end of the Moscow consultative meeting to learn the results of the so-called inter-Syrian dialogue, even if Moscow had the right to decide who had the right to participate.

It was enough to read Assad's interview in the US-based Foreign Affairs magazine on 26 January, in which every slain Syrian could find the answers to questions raised by the opposition and the world on ending the Syrian crisis.

Four years into the war that has crushed Syria and its citizens, Assad has not yet changed his view, or rather his account, of what happened. He still insists there is no national political problem in Syria, that the problem is "in Syria, terrorists support foreign terrorists to come and hide among civilians". This is how Assad justifies dropping explosive barrels on civilians, as "they launch what you call guerrilla attacks", and this is how he views this war.

Thus, it is only logical that Assad denies the existence of opposition and considers anyone who claims to be part of it to be a puppet created and controlled by states opposed to Syria. It is also logical, then, that such puppets do not deserve to be engaged in actual dialogue, as the only possible dialogue is with rebels who have power and influence on the ground.

And since most of them joined al-Qaeda, while others preferred to return to the state army, only a small insignificant group remained. Assad negotiates with this group through truces and reconciliation. "People gave up their armaments; we gave them amnesty; they live normal lives", said Assad.

What's the point of negotiations?

In this case, what would be the point of dialogue conferences and negotiations? The point is to prove to the international community that there is no real Syrian opposition, and that the disasters that have taken place in Syria over the last four years, the effects of which have reached across the ocean and Europe, are but the results of Syria's war against terrorism, which makes the country a world leader in this field.

Assad denies the existence of opposition and considers anyone who claims to be part of it a puppet created and controlled by states opposed to Syria.
What can actually be the subject of a dialogue with opposition puppets is the issue of humanitarian aid, in which Assad wants the opposition to validate his strategy of starvation and subjugation by agreeing to restore his legitimacy in return for allowing the transfer of food shipments to besieged, starving areas. Assad hopes this will encourage the countries and governments of the world to follow in the footsteps of the opposition and end their boycott of him and his regime.

In short, as the Moscow and Cairo meetings showed, the aim of these dialogues is not to discuss and try to resolve Syria's national crisis, but rather to cleanse and rehabilitate the Syrian regime by benefiting from the international mobilisation against terrorism.

In his Foreign Affairs interview, Assad does not acknowledge that he has erred in the past few years, or that he is at all responsible for what happened in Syria or what his people have suffered and have yet to suffer over the next few decades.

In response to the interviewer's question about possible mistakes, Assad he said: "We took three main decisions: First of all, to be open to all dialogue. Second, we changed the constitution and the law according to what many in the opposition had requested, allegedly, that this was the reason for the crisis. Third, we took the decision to defend our country, to defend ourselves, to fight terrorists. So I don't think those three decisions can be described as wrong or mistakes."

He continued: "Others are the ones who made mistakes; the opposition that refused open dialogue, and the countries that would not acknowledge the reforms and the changes in the constitution."

The war as Assad sees it

Assad does not see the four-year war as most Syrians do. Assad sees positives. "Every war is bad... because you always have destruction in a war. The main question is, what have we won in this war? What we won in this war is that the Syrian people have rejected terrorists; the Syrian people support their government more; the Syrian people support their army more. Before talking about winning territory, talk about winning the hearts and minds and the support of the Syrian people. That's what we have won. What's left is logistical, it's technical," Assad said.

Assad believes he has won the war, not because he defeated the opposition militarily, but because he has successfully deprived his enemy, the people, of victory, and forced them into a war they were not prepared for. He managed to place extremist groups in confrontation with the Free Syrian Army, so major powers had no choice but to cooperate with him to confront the threat of terrorism.

Assad also believes he is still the strongest side in the equation, because he is the only organised power that resembles a state or rather, whose gangs organise themselves as a state.

He is waiting impatiently for the reward of his victory from the West, he uses the excuse of pleasing the opposition and insists he is the protector of civilisation in the face of terrorism, barbarism, backwardness, religion and sectarianism, rather than a party to the conflict or the dialogue.

The truth is that the war waged by Assad to divide the people and block any change toppled him and his regime a long time ago.
Only this logic explains why all inter-Syrian dialogues have been failing, and will continue to fail. It also explains how the only actual remaining dialogue about Syria is the one currently taking place between the US and Iran.

If Assad had anything to offer to Syria or its people, he would not have turned his country into ruins and his people into refugees. And if the opposition was able to save Syria, we would not be begging today for support from others. Thus, Assad can reject the dialogue or raise the bar for dialogue as he pleases; he believe he is untouchable, and the opposition can wave its little sword all it wants, it is still far from taking any action.

Assad's regime lies in ruins

The truth is that the war waged by Assad to divide the people and block any change toppled him and his regime a long time ago. What we see now in Syria is the Pasdaran regime, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, whose leaders announced a few days ago the formation of a Syrian Hizballah and Basij bases in all 14 governorates, without any Syrian official daring to say a word in response.

Syria is an occupied country, in which only the occupation has any real power. And such dialogues, which further divide the Syrians, mean we cannot take one step forward because we will all turn into henchmen and followers.

Syria will only be saved by its people's vigilance that has, thus far, protected it from grudges and sectarian, ethnic and regional feelings of revenge, sparked by a regime based on slavery and death. Loyal patriots, inside and outside of the regime, are responsible for uniting the people to defeat the occupation and restore Syria's unity, independence and freedom.

Dialogues held in extra time have only one goal, that is, to perpetuate the delusion Syria still has a government.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.