By Arab News
By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid
Syrian political activist living in exile Michel Kilo believes that the available alternative after the downfall of President Bashar Assad is an internal war turning into a protracted regional one involving the two superpowers. This was what he wrote in his article in Asharq Al-Awsat, the London-based Arabic daily and a sister publication of Arab News. He also expressed these views in recent statements.
His analyses were identical to the conclusions written by Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria, in his report to the Security Council. Annan said there had to be a political solution to the crisis. This would mean keeping Assad in power. Annan’s objectives were suspicious. He started his mission in February with the same utterances even before he visited Damascus. He warned that a civil war was imminent if there was no political settlement. We know that Annan was nominated to this position by the team siding with the Syrian regime, which is Russia and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Al-Arabi. This is why his report to the Security Council was made to please the regime and its allies.
I cannot say the same thing about Kilo, the son of Latakia, who is a struggler who paid the price of his opposition to the regime in years of imprisonment. He remained loyal to his political beliefs. I definitely disagree with Kilo, who narrowed down the available options to two: The regime or war. I believe the choice adopted by the Syrians today is to topple the regime at any price. The road toward this end is long and replete with pains.
Kilo tried to summarize what was happening in Syria as a conflict between Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey on the one hand and Iran and Russia on the other. This is not true. It is also humiliating to the Syrian people who went out and demonstrated peacefully without receiving arms, medicines or dollars. The incidents in Syria were not created by Saudi Arabia or Qatar. It is a real uprising against a totalitarian regime. The crisis is a conflict between the majority of the Syrian people against the Assad regime and those who support it. It is a natural revolt against one of the cruelest dictatorships in the world, of which now only North Korea and Iran remain. Therefore, any talk about a peaceful solution is meaningless. The regime cannot be softened or reformed. The Syrian people know very well that all that was said about elections and development was just lip service and shear lies. They know that the option before them is to continue the confrontations against the regime for long or short years. They are aware that ultimately, the regime will not be able to withstand the people’s hatred and their strong will to bring it down. The Syrians have been demonstrating for more than 14 months, and they never stop going out every day despite thousands of deaths and injuries. The Syrian people are expressing a state of true rejection of the regime and not an imported one. Their uprising is not a symbol of regional conflict, as some parties claim.
Kilo believes that the revolution may end in a civil war that will turn into a regional one. I believe he means the downfall of the regime will ultimately create small states in Syria (Alawi and Kurdish) and lead to local and regional wars. The question is: Why is this considered a bad option when the alternative, which is the continuation of the Assad regime in power, is worse?
What Kilo, Annan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Al-Arabi are saying is not more than speculations that can be summed up in one sentence: Keep the regime. The Assad regime has been repeating this question to terrify the others: What will happen in Syria after the regime is gone? Before we answer, let us ask the correct questions. Is a peaceful solution to the crisis possible? Is Assad willing to step down for a peaceful transfer of power like what happened in Yemen? The answer is definitely no. Can the regime expel its head like what happened in Tunisia and Egypt? The answer is also no, because the regime is sectarian and is only supported by a small religious sect. Can the Assad regime be toppled by force from inside? The answer is yes. This can be achieved by the continuation of the uprising, which will grow bigger and bigger with time despite the brutal crackdown. The revolution may not succeed now, but it will definitely come out triumphant in a year or two. Is it possible that Syria might be divided into smaller Alawi and Kurdish states? The answer is yes. This possibility will always be there. Can a civil war break out as a result of division of the country? The probability is also there.
We go back to the beginning to ask: Can the fear of civil war and the division of the country drive the Syrian people to stop the uprising and go back home? To me, this possibility is dismissed simply because living under the Assad regime is far worse than a civil war.
If Kilo believed at the beginning of the revolution that the toppling of the regime was a picnic, then he was wrong. If he today believes that going back to live under Assad’s regime is just like coming back from the cinema after watching a movie, then he is wrong again.
Let us then think of a solution that will bring down the regime, not leave it in power any more.