Does Fighting In Damascus Signal The End Of President Al Assad? Everyone Would Love To Know The Answer
Pressing question, this. A lot of midnight oil has been burnt in various capitals, with politicians trying to figure the answer to it.
But the simple fact is that it’s simply too early to say how it will all play out. This is not the first time there has been fighting in the capital. It has occurred before and then died down. Such is the reputation of the capital that citizens have been fleeing there from other parts of the country. In other words, it was regarded as a safe haven. No longer.
The Free Syrian Army is now active in Damascus. The Muslim Brotherhood leadership has called on all its members to stand up and fight. There are other militias as well. The militants are attempting to take some important government security buildings. Tanks have sealed off many streets in the capital so the insurgents will find it very difficult to retreat. They have no other choice but to fight to the bitter end. The battle for Damascus has begun and it may last a long time. The regime is now in a position where it must fight. The key factor will be the loyalty of its soldiers. How long will they continue to kill fellow citizens and destroy their country? They will only continue the struggle if they think they can win.
Diplomatically the situation is also changing. Sergei Lavrov reiterates Russia’s opposition to armed intervention by foreign forces in the conflict. However, he has stated that the military situation now resembles a stalemate. This means that Moscow no longer believes that President al Assad has the upper hand. Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General, is in Beijing for talks about what can be done to bring the killing to an end. Does this now mean that the likelihood of UN sanctioned action is increasing? No. Russia’s point is that the Syrians themselves should be allowed to resolve this conflict. China does not want to become involved. However it also wants to ensure that there is no UN mandate for military intervention. This would create a precedent. If an uprising occurred in Tibet or Xinjiang, the UN might be emboldened to intervene on the side of the insurgents. China also does not want sanctions to be imposed on Syria. Again this could be used in the future against China in the case of domestic unrest.
So the conclusion is that the international community does not have the willpower or the capability of intervening in Syria. An assault could be launched from Turkey but Syria has many anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles. So the fighting would be bloody. Iran and Iraq could be dragged into the struggle. What would be the end goal of military intervention? A new leader chosen by foreigners? The Muslim Brotherhood has high hopes of seizing power. However secular forces would resist this. Both groups need to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the population. This can only be achieved by defeating the al Assad regime. Whoever is judged to have contributed most to the downfall of the regime stands the best chance of taking the presidency.
The Russians are right. Only the Syrians can decide the outcome of this bloody conflict. It has some time to run but the likelihood of the regime falling increases daily.