Syrian National Council’s new chief Moaz al-Khatib has surprised us by declaring that the Syrian revolution has failed. He did not address directly the Syrian citizens or the revolutionaries. Instead, he used his Facebook page to write: “I declare that I am ready to sit directly with representatives of the Syria regime in Cairo or Tunis or Istanbul.” If he took his car and went to Damascus, it would have been less shocking than telling 20 million Syrians through a personal message on Facebook that he had decided to end their revolution and compromise with Assad in exchange for the release of prisoners and a handful of passports!
Al-Khatib divided the opposition and inflicted major damages on the efforts of thousands of people who are sacrificing their lives for the sake of a new future without Assad and his fascist regime.
During the bloody years in Lebanon, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad faced a major obstacle when he began assassinating his rivals. A wide front of opposition forces and figures under the umbrella of “14 March” alliance stood up to him. His strategy was to break up the alliance by spreading rumors about these opposition forces, or some of them, claiming that he is in good ties with one party or another in order to drive a wedge among them after they proved to be a wide alliance of Sunnis, Christians, Druze and others in alliance with Saudi Arabia and France. The opposition front succeeded in getting the United Nations establish a special tribunal for Lebanon against Assad and his companions to investigate their involvement in the assassination of more than 20 leading figures in Lebanon. Assad, however, failed to divide or even frighten the opposition front.
Today, we are seeing a similar style being used against the Syrian opposition. Assad began with sending signals and false messages that he is ready to negotiate and compromise. To this end he used European and Russian mediators making promises to everyone that he would offer concessions in talks with opposition leaders.
This is all expected from Assad in order for al-Khatib to write on Facebook that he is ready to sit down face to face with representatives of the Syrian regime for dialogue and in exchange for releasing 160,000 prisoners from the Syrian jails and for extending or renewing the passports of the Syrians who live abroad for two years minimum!
This is a similar proposition previously put forth by the self-proclaimed opposition figure Haytham Manna, who is close to Assad’s regime and Iran, when he spoke about dialogue with the regime!
Does al-Khatib know that such initiative will achieve one thing only and that is dividing the Syrian opposition? Isn’t he aware that his initiative would be shocking to millions of Syrians who have fled their homes and villages and bore sufferings and hardships waiting for the fall of the regime?
What’s the value of Khatib’s offer? Releasing prisoners means one thing only: the regime will open its prisons’ gates for inmates to exit then hunt them down and from their neighborhoods and homes. And what’s the value of renewing the passports of Syrians abroad? These people are already blacklisted as enemies of the regime and what is certain is that no one of them will voluntarily return to his country except after the death of Assad or the collapse of his regime.
There is no benefit today in dialogue with a dead Assad. Even his mother, sister, companions and businessmen have fled Syria and abandoned him, because they know that his regime will eventually collapse. The capital’s airport is mostly shut down because of attacks by revolutionaries and Assad’s forces were forced to dig trenches around it knowing that the final battle is inching close to the capital.
Khatib has to know that dialogue with Assad is too late and no matter what concession the embattled president offers the exchange value would be very low. The millions of Syrians will not exchange the blood of their fallen fellow citizens except for the collapse of the regime and the hunting down of its members. Assad can escape from his palace to Russia or Iran where it would be difficult for the revolutionary to hunt him. Al-Khatib and the world watching have to either support the opposition to finish the job or stop supporting it and intervening in its affairs. The opposition will deal him (Assad) a blow even after a year or two.
This article first appeared in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 2, 2013.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.