During a meeting with members of his newly-formed government, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s face was pale and drawn, his hands were tense and shaking, and the tone of his voice was nervous and hesitant. However, what was truly revealing about this meeting was al-Assad’s “latest” interpretation of what is happening on Syrian soil, telling his subservient ministers that “Syria is in a state of total war, in the full sense of the word”.
This interpretation comes after the Syrian president initially denied that there was a crisis, then transformed the matter into a global conspiracy, then claimed that Syria was fighting against fundamentalist terrorism. This was followed by the vague, simplistic explanation that attacks by “armed gangs” were the reason behind everything, despite the fact that these gangs had no face, identity, reference, voice or evidence of their existence. The Syrian regime and its media trumpets continued to churn out this explanation over and over, until it became a laughing stock and punch-line.
One cannot listen to Bashar al-Assad’s comments - telling his government administration and his people that they are in a state of total war - without feeling sorrow and dismay. The Golan Heights have been occupied by a known enemy of Syria, namely Israel, for many decades. This enemy’s aircraft penetrate Syria’s airspace and tamper with its air security, whilst the Mossad intelligence service assassinates influential figures on Syrian soil (this is according to the official Syrian interpretation and is still the subject of doubt), and all this and more happens without Syria ever declaring war on Israel. Yet the Syrian regime dares to declare war against its own people, more than 17,000 of whom have died so far, whilst more than a million have been forced to flee and seek refuge, not to mention the 100,000 prisoners and 60,000 wounded.
The state of war that Bashar al-Assad is talking about actually lies within the regime’s army. The morale of this army is exhausted and it is no longer capable of fighting within Syria’s cities, instead opting to use missiles, aircraft and devastating indiscriminate shelling. Today, the Free Syrian Army [FSA] stands 80,000 strong, whilst the rate of defections from al-Assad’s army is escalating, both in terms of quantity and quality. All kinds of military ranks are now defecting from the al-Assad military, including lieutenant generals, major generals, brigadier generals and colonels. Furthermore, they are defecting from all sectors; armoured divisions, missile units, the air force, infantry and intelligence services, as well as from all geographical regions and all sectarian denominations.
This explains the madness and hysteria of the Syrian regime, and its use of all means of suppression and murder, to the extent that more than a hundred people are being killed every day in the most brutal ways. Russia and Iran are still convinced that Bashar al-Assad, his brother Maher, and his brother-in-law Assef Shawkat are able to protect Syria, and that the regime must remain in power. As for the actions of this tyrannical trio and what they have done to Syria, Russia and Iran can only sigh and say: “Look how clever these boys are!”. The war that Bashar al-Assad is talking about is a war against his own people who have risen up against him and who will not back down until he and his regime leave. This is the fact of the matter!
The writer is a prominent columnist. The article was published in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat on July 2, 2012