By Arab News
By Tariq Alhomayed
It is wrong to believe, even for a moment, that the Bashar Assad regime will commit to Kofi Annan’s initiative and withdraw its troops from Syrian towns and cities, not to mention the rest of the initiative’s steps — from allowing the right to demonstrate and the entry of journalists to sitting down at the negotiation table; steps which would ultimately mean the end of Assad.
What the Assad regime is doing today is like a television show announcing “we’ll be back after these messages.” The regime is seeking to find holes in the international position; escalating as a result of the Friends of Syria conference in Istanbul, in order to avoid another meeting being held by the same group in France later this month, and in order to hinder the influential countries that have decided to help the Syrian revolutionaries with arms and so on. However, my sources indicate that secret diplomatic movements are under way in more than one direction to mobilize international ranks against the Assad regime, which is now trying to adopt the strategy of “We’ll be back after these messages” with its third acceptance of Annan’s plan — with a deadline set for April 10, so as to distract international efforts, and then return to killing the Syrians.
Therefore, the international community must be aware of an important matter, namely that when an Assad source announced the regime’s acceptance of Annan’s proposals for the first time, around 79 Syrians were killed, and when the regime officially announced its acceptance of Annan’s plan for a second time, around 217 Syrians were killed. The day before yesterday, with the Assad regime’s third announcement that it had accepted Annan’s plan, at least 60 more Syrians had been killed. We saw the same on the day that the regime accepted Al-Dabi’s Arab monitoring team, when more than 400 were killed in Syria. How many will die as a result of the “We’ll be back after these messages” policy today, after Assad accepted Annan’s proposals for a third time? Only God knows of course, but it is wrong to rely on Assad’s stances towards Arab and international initiatives; all they do is try to buy Assad more time, nothing more nothing less, especially if we are aware, for example, that two days ago Moscow urged Assad about the need to initiate a cease-fire before the rebels, and this is a significant matter.
Thus, the assumption today should be that we cannot believe the Syrian regime’s announcements and commitments, because Assad is Assad, and his diplomacy amounts to “We’ll be back after these messages”. He has done so in Syria over the space of a year, he did so in Lebanon for ten years and likewise in Iraq for seven years. Therefore, the Friends of Syria group must complete their plans in all directions as if Assad had not announced his position at all. It is not important what the Assad regime says, but rather what happens on the ground, and what is happening on the ground in reality — even as I write this article — is that the Syrians are being killed at the hands of Assad’s forces. Hence serious steps must be taken to stop this killing machine, and the first of these steps is to provide the Syrian rebels with weapons. All the Syrian regime is doing with regards to the Syrians is adopting a policy of “We’ll be back after these messages”, and the international community, especially the Friends of Syria, must not be deceived that Assad’s promises are anything more than that.
— The author is editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Write to him at [email protected]