By Arab News
By Hassan Barari
In a firm move, Gulf states announced that they would withdraw their monitors from Syria thus sending a clear message that the Assad regime has failed to comply with the Arab League’s plan to put an end to the bloody crackdown on protesters. Evidently, the common stand taken by the Gulf countries cannot be more striking. Withdrawing their monitors from Syria is tantamount to saying that the Gulf countries are not going to be part of Assad’s game of buying time while Syrian people are subject to unremitting killing.
It seems that Assad is not in touch with reality. While he has no chance to stay in power as all of his allies in the region are under attack, he still behaves as if he is invincible! He fools nobody but himself when he keeps talking about an external conspiracy that targets his regime.
In a last-ditch attempt to avoid internationalization of the Syrian crisis, the Arab League proposed a road map that states that Assad transfer power to his deputy and a new national government is formed within two months. Presidential and parliamentary elections would be held after that. To the Arabs, this is the best way of curbing violence and averting international intervention. Yet the Syrian regime dismissed it as a “flagrant” violation of Syrian sovereignty.
Against this backdrop, the Gulf states decided to act swiftly by withdrawing all of their monitors (55 of the 165 monitors sent to Syria). Interestingly, Damascus is still employing the same boring false pretexts. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem assailed the road plan was a “plot” against his country abetted by the Arabs. He added that his country would continue targeting “armed terrorist gangs.” If anything, this last statement indicates clearly that the Syrian regimes has reached the no-return point and that it has no real intention to end the long ten-month bloody crackdown on people.
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Syrian crisis is on its way to get internationalized. The Gulf states urged the Security Council to take what it takes to force Assad to relinquish power. But Syria is still relying on two allies in the Security Council – China and Russia – to block any effort to that effect. In his dismissive response to the call for taking the file to the Security Council, Walid Moallem said that Arabs could take the whole file to “New York or to the moon, as long as we don’t have to pay for their ticket…Russia will not agree on the foreign interference in Syria’s internal affairs, and this is a red line.”
With the Gulf countries’ recent step, the noose is tightening around the neck of Assad. They offered him a safe exist from Syria but it seems that he is not the one who calls the shots in Damascus. The security circle around him is looking for a showdown with all. Yet, the Syrian regime does not understand that Russia is open to a new initiative that can force Assad to leave. Russia is against military intervention and the West has affirmed its intentions not to interfere. But Russia cannot protect the isolated regime forever. Equally important, China has recently signed an oil deal with Saudi Arabia thus getting closer to the Gulf countries’ position while moving away from Iran. In the Arab League’s deliberation on the new road map, Iraq took a positive step by agreeing to the road map. This might be coordinated with Tehran and thus reflecting a new Iranian approach. For sure, this was bad news for the Syrian regime.
All in all, the Arabs have given the regime in Syria every possible chance to put a cap on violence and embark upon genuine reform. Yet, the regime kept the same line dismissing all efforts to end the crisis. Clearly, Assad and his cronies have failed miserably in reading the new changes that have swept the region. Their miscalculation could not be more striking. While stronger regimes fell under the pressure of people, Assad kept thinking that his regime was different and that his allies from within and from without would stand up to a “Western-Zionist” conspiracy. Finally, the Gulf states are fed up and thus they refuse to play the role of a fake witness to the daily killing of Syrians. In brief, the countdown of change in Syria started once Saudi Arabia announced its intention not to take part in the Arab League mission in Syria. Now it remains to be seen how the rest of the Arab countries are going to behave. Can they continue with a plan without an active Gulf participation? I doubt!