Across the Bay

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Empty Shell?

Yassin al-Haj Saleh writes in the DS:

The Damascus Declaration could be seen as an early Syrian reaction to the Mehlis report. The intention of the signatories was to propose an option different than what the Syrian regime has been offering: either the regime on the one hand or chaos or extremist Islamism on the other. The signatories sought to say that there would not be a vacuum of power should the doors of the country be opened to the unknown, and should the regime collapse under international pressure.

As George Sabra, a speaker from the Syrian People Democratic Party, put it, the document was intended to show that "Syria is not politically an empty shell." He underlined that there do exist popular forces in the country, with a long history of democratic struggle - trustworthy groups that can be dealt with. These forces are united in their support for democratic and national change, and have a program that dovetails with the spirit of modernity in this era of world history.

Now that the Mehlis report is out, it is becoming increasingly clear that it will be difficult, perhaps impossible, for both Syria and its regime to be saved together. The Damascus Declaration, in calling for change, has the aim of separating the fate of Syria from that of its regime. This is the great challenge that the Syrian opposition will have to face up to in the coming months. The stronger and more united and active the democratic opposition is, the less grim the future of the country will be.

Perhaps, combine that with my proposal (which is flexible), and perhaps it's something to keep in mind. I would even say, if Bashar decides to give up Asef and Maher (doubtful), he needs to be pushed in this direction. Even if he stays as president, the structure gets redefined and the base broadened to allow proper participation (on road to a proper power-sharing formula), and all the reform process gets quickly and seriously activated, under close EU and US supervision and follow-up.

This is the ideal situation, but no one believes Bashar will do this on his own. The EU and the US can do much to push in that direction, and make sure that in the end, the status quo in Syria changes. Only in this context is keeping Bashar a viable option.

Like Lee said, this is an internal Syrian battle that should be put in its actual internal framework inside Syria. The Syrians need to start taking part of that and taking responsibility for their own fate, instead of sticking their heads in the sand as their fate is being determined for them by a bunch of hapless kepltocratic thugs. They need to start looking at each other, and facing their differences in the open (the Lebanese and Iraqis aren't better), and stop being taken hostage by the regime's threats of apr├Ęs moi le deluge, and exorcising their demons at the expense of their neighbors.