The Regime’s Days are Numbered and Other Facets of the Syria Crisis Box

Camille Otrakji

Originally posted on The Syria Page, 9 October 2012

The international community is escalating its commitment to winning the Syria conflict to unprecedented levels.

Last week the Obama administration promised more direct funding to the rebels fighting Syria’s army. This week, Australian foreign minister Bob Carr suggested that assassinating the President of Syria might be a wise and necessary option. Prime Minister Erdogan of  NATO member state Turkey talked about his country’s readiness for war with Syria.

If you listen to the Bob Carr’s full interview on Australia’s ABC network you would hear a question that starts with: “most of the reporting suggests fairly consistently that it is only a matter of time before the regime falls”. Expectations of imminent and not very costly end of the regime, which is assumed to be the very definition of “success”, has been for the past 20 months one of the main pillars in motivating members of the alliance led by the international community trying to topple the regime in Damascus.

No one asked Prime Minister Erdogan about his statements one year ago that “Assad’s days are numbered”.

No one asked the Obama administration about its frequent assertions a year ago that “Assad is running out of time”

No one asked Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak who stated again in July 2012 that “Assad’s fall is closer than ever” what that really means. “closer than ever” is less precise than his confident statements 10 months ago that “Assad will be toppled WITHIN WEEKS”

The six facets of the Syria Crisis box
The International community wants to win, at any cost, in Syria but these days it is not politically correct to present one’s objectives in such blunt terms. A more politically correct approach is to establish a human rights narrative. Anyone proposing solutions must not stray outside the international community’s Syria crisis box:

The Syria crisis box

  • The regime’s days are numbered. Regime opponents can do it if they work with us for a few more weeks, that’s all it will take.
  • Syrians will thank us for helping them topple the regime. It will be good for Syria. If only we topple the regime. A short transition period might be difficult, but soon after democracy and all other goodies will be within reach.
  • “The Syrian People” want us to topple the regime, not reach a compromise with it. Can’t go wrong if you are on the side of “the Syrian People”. The people have one thing on their minds … change, full and total change.
  • The price to pay for revolutionary change is not too steep. The Syrian people are willing to pay that price over the much lower cost of pursuing evolutionary change options that do not follow “The Arab Spring” formula we find more exciting here in the US. Syria will not be destroyed in the process, its economy will be easy to recover. The people will work together after this civil war.
  • The regime is the Assad family. Get rid of Assad and you can celebrate. Get Farouk Sharaa to replace Assad … follow the Yemen solution formula to democracy [see how here]
  • Working with the Islamists is inevitable and wise. The west can use the power of the Islamists to fight and topple the regime, THEN the west can install secular Syrian opposition allies and remove the Islamists from the scene. If Islamists win the next elections in Syria, it will be not a problem. They will be under control and guidance of Turkey’s moderate Islamists.

All these assumptions were made without consulting “the Syrian people”. After initial symbolic demonstrations in Daraa and Damascus, western governments and media started to make all the above assumptions. No one wants to explain where the 250,000 dedicated soldiers and officers that make up the official Syrian army come from if they are not part of “the Syrian people”.

Finding a way out of the highly dangerous crisis in Syria will require some thinking outside this convenient box. Outside this box you might be able to realize that victory is much more costly and uncertain. That secularism might be a much better alternative to experimenting with Erdogan’s Muslim Brotherhood allies and Saudi Arabia’s Salafis, and most of all that the Syria crisis is much more than that. It is the Middle East crisis. The United States has to face all the regional conflicts that it has been avoiding for decades.

The Syria crisis is not about Assad staying in power or not as they want you to believe. It is the last warning to Washington to re-engineer its broken Middle East policy making machine before it is too late.

Camille Alexandre Otrakji is a Syrian residing in Canada, the founder of and political analyst and commentator.

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