Abdelbari Atwan, publisher/editor of the London-based pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi, takes issue today with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad for likening his bloody crackdown to surgery and denying his forces had a hand in the Houla massacre.
Referring to the two issues, Assad said in his speech to parliament, which lasted more than an hour on Sunday:
- “When a surgeon in an operating room... cuts and cleans and amputates, and the wound bleeds, do we say to him your hands are stained with blood? Or do we thank him for saving the patient?”
- “What happened in Houla and elsewhere are brutal massacres that even monsters would not have carried out… If we don't feel the pain that squeezes our hearts, as I felt it, for the cruel scenes -- especially the children -- then we are not human beings.”
Atwan retorts in his editorial today:
- President Assad goofed “when he said the surgeon stains his hands in blood to save the patient because the Syrian surgeon he had in mind could hemorrhage the patient without saving him.”
- “I totally agree with Assad’s description of perpetrators of the Houla massacre as ‘monsters.’ But he did not acknowledge the monsters were Syrians loyal to the regime and protected by its military and security forces… If he is so sure of their innocence, all he has to do is allow an independent international investigation into the massacre and undertake to hold accountable all those responsible.”
The West has taken advantage over global outrage over Houla to reach out to Syria's ally and protector Russia to join a coordinated effort to resolve the 15-month-old conflict that has claimed well over 10,000 lives.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is today hosting European Union chiefs in St. Petersburg for his new presidency’s first summit to discuss, among other matters, Russia's Syria policy.
Speaking Sunday in Stockholm, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Russia to help start a political transition in Syria, the outcome of which she says should be Assad's ouster.
“Assad's departure does not have to be a precondition, but it should be an outcome so that the people of Syria have a chance to express themselves,” she said.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has spoken of the ongoing political transition in Yemen as an example of something that might work in Syria. That, according to Clinton, would require much more active participation from Moscow.
"It took a lot of time and effort with a number of countries who were involved at the table working to achieve a political transition. And we would like to see the same occur in Syria," she said.
Political analyst Nassif Hitti, guest writer of today’s think piece titled “Syrian scenarios” for the Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily al-Hayat, believes the Yemen example is one of five likely dénouements in Syria.
The scenarios are:
1) Disintegration and crisis management, whereby the process would be chaperoned by a diplomatic drive to try and extinguish the unrest fire. “Syria would enter the stage of drawn-out social conflict, when violence would ebb and flow until the emergence of areas – no matter how small or for how long – outside of state authority. State institutions would degenerate and the state itself would become weaker than the regime. All manner of armed violence would hold sway in the Syrian arena, with no peaceful or definite political solution in sight.”
2) Afghanization comparable with the struggle against the Najibullah regime in Afghanistan. Persistence of violence as the only way to settle the crisis, coupled with the absence of a political horizon, would amplify the revolution’s militancy and radicalism. With Styria sitting on the region’s strongly sectarian volcanic fault line, the Syrian arena would mobilize and magnetize international jihadist fighters. Should this scenario take hold, an Arab Afghanistan would be implanted in the Arab Mashreq.
3) Iraqization, which would feature the fall and breakdown of state authority with time and the outbreak of internal strife among the country’s original components under enticing “national” slogans. The slogans would lure and mobilize one particular component but fail to build bridges with its counterparts. Internecine strife among the initial constituents would reign supreme, leading the state to wear away and killing the chances of a viable “national” solution.
4) Lebanonization, or civil war as in Lebanon, with neighborly or distant meddlers and a Lebanese-style system of democratic governance rooted in consensual sectarianism. The system would be vulnerable and prone to external meddling. We’ve already seen the Lebanonization of the regime in Iraq and we can catch a glimpse of the Iraqization of Syria’s situation.
5) Yemenization, or a political transition as underway in Yemen despite the obstacles and fundamental differences between Syria and Yemen concerning the role of outside forces and the tenacity of the two regimes. Besides, Yemenization means the head of state bowing out and the regime staying in place, albeit with minor changes. Such a scenario remains brittle and susceptible to culminate in one of the four aforementioned dénouements.