|President Assad in Baba Amr|
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad yesterday toured the devastated rebel stronghold of Baba Amr in the restive city of Homs that his forces had overrun last month after 26 days of heavy bombardment and gunfire.
Hundreds of civilians and several foreign journalists – including Gilles Jacquier, Marie Colvin, Rémi Ochlik, Rami al-Sayed, Anas al-Tarsha, Paul Conroy and Edith Bouvier – were killed or maimed in Baba Amr and other parts of Homs before the army reclaimed the rebel stronghold.
In his daily column for the Beirut daily an-Nahar, political analyst Rajeh el-Khoury today says Assad’s walkabout in the streets of the ravaged district was meant to convey a total of six messages:
1. One is to Thursday’s Arab summit meeting in Baghdad. The message is that planned reference in the summit’s closing communiqué to the Arab initiative and its endorsement by the UN Security Council is now outdated. “The regime will reestablish its authority and eradicate ‘terror’ before it gets to address political reform.”
2. A second to next Sunday’s “Friends of Syria” conference in Turkey, which persists in pushing for Syrian opposition unity. The message reads: facts on the ground disprove Barack Obama’s talk at one time of Assad’s days in office being numbered. “It’s rather the Syrian opposition’s days that are numbered.”
3. A third to Turkey, which was reported lately to be seriously thinking of carving up a buffer zone in Syrian territory to accommodate the growing number of refugees. The message is: the move is needless. “Baba Amr was the opening shot in the military campaign, not the last.”
4. A fourth to Kofi Annan, saying: talk of cessation of violence in the presence of “pockets of armed terrorists” is pointless and a national dialogue will lead nowhere before the Syrian army regains control of every inch of Syrian territory. “If this takes turning the whole of Syria into a Baba Amr, so be it.”
5. A fifth message is to the international community, which is hiding behind the back of Annan’s “sluggish and tourism” mission. “It took Syria two weeks to ponder his six points and draft its six answers, which now raise six new questions.”
6. The sixth and last aim of the Baba Amr walkabout was simply meant “to pat the army on the back for having fought its people for a year…”