A little less stick, a lot more carrot for Assad

In August 2013, Damascus' Ghouta was shelled with chemical weapons. 1,700 citizens were killed. Most of those killed were women and children. Footage of the attack made everyone cry. Although the Syrian war is cruel and ugly, we've never - before the Ghouta incident - seen this many dead children.

Of those who survived, many suffocated by Sarin gas, an internationally prohibited chemical weapon. Although this wasn't the Syrian regime's first attack on civilian neighborhoods, the scene was horrifying and anger reached its peak.

U.S. President Barack Obama's stance was harmonious with the gravity of the incident. After verifying that the attack was one carried out by prohibited chemical substances, the United States said it would militarily respond to the Syrian regime's crime against civilians. The rest of the story is well-known as it was later agreed with the murderous regime that it hands over his chemical weapons in exchange of halting the military attack.

Repercussions of halted military intervention

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continued to kill thousands of people using explosive barrels, jets, tanks and cannons. The chemical attack thus practically served the regime as it prolonged its rule and gave the Syrian people the impression that the regime has lasting power.

The chemical attack also granted the regime more time to hand over its chemical arsenal and in the meantime it received massive support from Hezbollah and Iran through thousands of fighters. The regime also received advanced weapons from Russia.

Meanwhile, the rebels only received a negligible amount of basic weapons. The balance of powers changed due to this agreement, and the Assad regime regained control over vast areas which it had lost control over in the past two years.

The story may be old but the moral here is that despite many verbal threats, the Assad regime has received a little stick and lots of carrots.

This is what makes people really angry today. If the opposition had been allowed to buy anti-aircraft missiles and cannons, the Assad regime would have collapsed a long time ago because it's a military-security regime that represents a small minority.

The U.S. would have delivered a clear message if it had dared attack the Syrian regime.

Unfortunately, the only victory was confiscating 11% of the regime's chemical arsenal. We know that the regime may buy itself more time with the rest of its supplies.

Syrian regime’s lasting power

In the end, it will hand over most of its prohibited weapons but 10% of the Sarin gas it possess is enough to cause enough harm among unarmed civilians.

The chemical attack thus practically served the regime as it prolonged its rule and gave the Syrian people the impression that the regime has lasting power.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The regime may have not lasted this long if it had not used the deadly chemical.

It bought time, place and alliances. It terrified millions of people until it forced more than 5 million people to flee their homes either to other places inside Syria or to other countries.

Assad was rewarded for committing one of the most hideous crimes in the history of modern wars. We have a list of more than 140,000 people who were killed by his forces. Thousands died of hunger, siege and undocumented murder, and thousands others died in the regime's jails.

This means that the around 250,000 Syrians may have been killed by the regime and no one has done anything to stop this massacre which has been on for over three years.

We think it's not fair that the world has remained silent over this hideous massacre for so long. It makes no sense that the world only talks about al-Qaeda and its branches which are fighting in Syria. What about the millions of displaced people, widows and orphans who are confronting a criminal security regime?

This is not only the opposition's and the neighboring countries' responsibility but everyone's responsibility.
Syria has been inflicted. It crisis has touched us a lot more than other crises have, and its wounds will be painful to many.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 20, 2014.


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.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:41 - GMT 06:41
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