By Claude Salhani - Trend:
In most other countries a war on a similar scale as the conflict that has been tearing Syria apart would have stopped long ago with the government running away in the dead of the night with suitcases stuffed with hard cash, preferably U.S. dollars or euros, as was the case in Tunisia. Or the army would have stood united, refusing to fire on its own people, as happened in Egypt.
But in Syria surrender is not an option because it is not just the president and his immediate entourage that stand to loose everything they have, including their lives. If the president were to leave, it is the entire structure of the regime, the Baath Party, the military and the dreaded secret police that would suffer. And one must not forget the "shabiha", the civilian goons that have raped, pillaged and plundered, quite literally. Their job was to instill fear in the people so that they would not join the revolt.
Indeed, if the Syrian leadership were toppled, its leaders expect certain death; if they are lucky it will be a quick death. Other key figures of the Assad government, the elders and leaders of the Alawi community and the Baath Party can expect similar treatment.
Think of the political structure of the country as an inverted pyramid with Bashar at the bottom, holding up the entire structure. Immediately above him would be his mother, brothers, sisters, their husbands, children and immediate family members. Above them would be cousins and other relatives, such as in-laws, etc. Next would be the first tier of close associates, government ministers, party officials and high-ranking military officers, and so on. And at the very top level would be the rank and file of the military and party foot soldiers.
If the keystone holding up the pyramid, Bashar, were to fall then the entire infrastructure would collapse like a house of cards. This is why the fighters are so engaged and so adamant to win. Both sides realize the importance of holding their ground and not succumbing to whatever pressures they may face. They are fighting for their lives and for those of their families.
Assad will hold out regardless of the consequences. In recent weeks the situation appears to have shifted in his favor. Assad still enjoys the support of a portion on the Syrian population, believed to be around 30 percent. This is a far cry from the 97.9 percent the president claims to have won at the last election, or the 99.9 percent that his father Hafez used to score.
The president also has the support of minority groups such as the Christians, the Alawites of course, and the Druze.
"This support should not be interpreted as the existence of real sympathy for the regime, but rather as the prevalent feeling among many that an alternative regime could be even worse," said Nikolaos van Dam, a former Dutch diplomat who served his country as ambassador to Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, Germany and Indonesia, and author of "The Struggle for Political Power in Syria."
"Many Syrians for the time being prefer to preserve their livelihoods under the existing dictatorship rather than having their livelihoods, their shops and spare sources of income and belongings destroyed as a result of the internal war, let alone having themselves and their families be killed," said the Dutch diplomat during a speech given in Berlin earlier this week.
If some Syrians are still having doubts whether President Assad should go or stay, the international community is equally, if not all the more so, in doubt.
The West initially said that it would arm the resistance and help it get rid of the regime. However, without the proper armament it is practically impossible for the opposition to win militarily. And the West has been reluctant to offer any substantial military hardware for fear it may fall into the hands of the Islamists.
Once again it appears the West has broken a promise by not providing ample equipment to fight a modern war against a fully equipped Syrian army. The West has also lost credibility when it drew a red line where chemical weapons were concerned and then did nothing when they were deployed and the red line crossed.
There will be no Western military intervention with "boots on the ground." That says the Dutch diplomat "seems to be out of the question." There was at some point talk of establishing "no-fly zones" as in Iraq, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside.
Further analysis of the situation leaves one to believe that perhaps the only concrete action that the West will it take is that eventually, the perpetrators of war crimes being committed in Syria, regardless of which side they are on today, will be hunted down and brought to stand trial in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Calling for justice for the crimes that have been committed, has to be done, say human rights groups. In the interim, the West should stop raising false expectations, as it has so often done in the past.
--(This is the third of three articles on the war in Syria based on a speech given by Ambassador van Dam, which was reprinted on SyriaComment.com).
--Claude Salhani is senior editor at Trend Agency in Baku and a political analyst specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and terrorism.