“You Arabs are like those who threaten and vow, but then directly welcome those who hold you back, calm you down and prevent you from attacking your opponent.” That is what a retired U.S. ambassador, who served in the region for many years, said while we were having dinner in Cairo last week, after he had heard me and many others, blaming the U.S. policy that seems to be unwilling to do anything to stop the bloodshed in Syria. Instead, it is preventing its allies in the region from providing weapons to help rebels.
That was two days before the spread of the news in the American press last Tuesday stating that President Obama, after months of hesitation, is “considering arming the moderate Syrian rebels.” It is good news for the Syrian revolution, regardless of who the “moderate rebels” are; there are many factions in Syria that may go under this category, most of which are in the “Free Syrian Army.” Americans, Turks and Arabs have “estimated” lists of their size and whereabouts. As for the Islamists, which Obama fears their seizure of weapons and maps, they have someone else who cares about them and fund them. It is important to put an end to this Syrian tragedy right now.
The U.S. president’s recent announcement may open the door to the Arabs and Turks who threaten and vow so that their help and quality weapons, especially heat-seeking missiles (manpads), would flow to the FSA to offset the regime’s aviation system that is bombing the people. It will be a tough battle, and the regime will fiercely resist, and it is already doing so. They should not be betting on the initiative of the President of the Syrian National Coalition, Moaz al-Khatib, to negotiate with the regime and convince Assad to resign and form a transitional government. Khatib knows that the regime can only afford a complete triumph or a technical defeat, but he seems like someone who wants to say to the world: “I have knocked on every door, and the only thing left is the international community intervention.”
The experts are afraid that the “limited intervention will drag bigger interference” which means that no one would know what will happen after arming the rebels with quality weapons, maps and intelligence information, followed by “special operations” units that would bomb military targets such as ballistic missiles base that was deliberately used by the regime against its own people.
All of the above will take place without the consent of the Russians, and this would lead to a global crisis; but what is happening in Syria now is the result of procrastination. The “extremist” Islamic forces that nobody wanted, is spreading and reconstituting the tolerant Syrian society; they proved themselves on the military and security ground, and the Syrian citizens are now welcoming them, because they are providing bread and safety the people missed after two years of war, with the emergence of opportunities fragmenting Syria among fighting forces- each with their strength and skills- between a Kurdish region, Alawite state, Islamic emirate, Aleppo and Damascus, and Homs divided between Alawites and Sunnis. These entities will definitely fail, but the countries of the region and the international community will then have to work on re-uniting Syria.
Who wants to have such a difficult task?
More destruction is added to the real devastation in most of the country. Getting help has become difficult these days in light of the weak global economic situation; the United Nations, which called at the Kuwait summit a few weeks ago to collect $1.2 billion to help the Syrian refugees at home and abroad, has only received 20 percent of the target amount, so who will pay a few additional billions for the reconstruction of Syria?
Even if Assad triumphed in the suppression of the revolution, the countries and the region’s leaders won’t be able to accept him among them again, and they won’t bear the cost of his survival without victory or defeat. So it is time to look at the consequences after Bashar’s fall and the initiation of a popular and friendly democratic regime: all countries in the region will benefit from it except Iran, though the loss of Syria is better for Iran in the long run, because it will finally abandon the unrealistic dream of changing the Islamic history march after 1400 years, and will become again a regional country that is aware of its size and realities, and look for the interests of its people.
Jordan will be spared from its northern neighbor’s plots and the resulting intelligence and security costs; it will have instead a neighbor that is economically and agriculturally integrated with it, forming along with Lebanon, the Levant greatest economic region without any changes in borders or regimes. Saudi Arabia will also be relieved from the disturbing security pressures that the Baathist regime was imposing on Lebanon and its suspicious relationship with Iran, while it cannot be isolated from it; it is a natural extension of its strategic and economic environment, and its visa to Turkey and Europe. The democratic and free Syria will certainly have good economy market, which is good news of the Saudi kingdom.
Except for Hezbollah, any other regime in Syria is good news for Lebanon and its businessmen. A large market for trade and services extended to Syria, Jordan and Iraq will be formed. The same goes for Turkey that is always looking for new markets, and it will not find a better southern neighbor whose residents are looking forward to a better life after deprivation and isolation that extended over half a century.
For its part, Iran is explicitly intervening to support the regime in Damascus; the killing of an Iranian general in Syria last week, is nothing but a proof that there is a large intervention going on there. It takes place at a time when Arabs and Turks are still hesitating, while the opportunities and consequences, from which they will benefit by toppling the regime, outweigh the risk. If they increased their support for the Syrian people, Obama will be encouraged to settle the battle for the benefit of the revolution and the people, even without the Security Council intervention; countless “special operations” took place outside the Security Council.
This article was first published in al-Hayat on Feb. 23, 2013
Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels. HE can be found on Twitter: @JKhashoggi