By Arab News
The occasional demonstration outside an embassy is not unknown in the world’s capitals. Often as not, such protests — possibly against a political crackdown back home — are undertaken by the embassy’s own citizens. Or it may be an environmental issue — forests disappearing, whales hunted, mega dams built and valleys flooded. It is a very different matter, however, when embassies are attacked and ransacked or worse. In such cases, the host government is invariably responsible — all the more so when that government is an authoritarian military regime and nothing happens on its streets without its say-so.
No one can be in any doubt that the Syrian government orchestrated Saturday’s attacks in Damascus against the Saudi and Qatari embassies and against the Turkish Consulate in Latakia. The city of Homs may be beyond the Syrian government’s control but that is not the case with Damascus or Latakia, at least not yet. The attacks simply could not have happened without the Assad regime’s active involvement. There will be those who say that an attack on an embassy in Damascus is as nothing compared to the murderous campaign being waged by the Assad regime against its citizens. They will say that to express indignation at such a time over buildings damaged or flags destroyed, with demands that the perpetrators be punished, demonstrates a serious lack of moral balance. This paper sympathizes and agrees with those views. The death toll in Syria rises daily. What are bricks and mortar compared to this mounting toll on human lives? But what the attacks show is the level of sheer nastiness and desperation to which Syria has sunk. While it kills people at home, it conducts its foreign policy not by dialogue or diplomacy but by smashing up the embassies of countries it dislikes. It is puerile and pathetic.
King Abdallah of Jordan has now added his voice to the growing chorus of those who say that President Bashar Assad must go. The Arab League which has bent over backward to provide him with a peaceful exit from the crisis has now not only suspended Syria from its ranks, it is actively talking to the opposition about regime change. Assad has to go. The longer he hangs on, the greater the chances that he will end up like Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi.
And Qaddafi too, in his petty malevolence, took to attacking embassies: Qatar’s and Italy’s were sacked, the British ambassador’s residence was left a charred ruin.
Care for the sufferings of the Syrian people and dread that there will be many more deaths come first, not buildings. They can be rebuilt. But there have to be fears that Syria’s vicious little approach to foreign policy will end with more than diplomatic assaults in Damascus. Time and again it has used proxies to attack its opponents. It is now suspected of backing Kurdish militant attacks against Turkey.
It may well use its minions in Lebanon to wreak havoc there. Arab embassies in Beirut and Arab businesses and individuals in Lebanon will need to be vigilant.