The recent devastating earthquake which hit Turkey and Syria have left behind its thousands of dead and a region devasted with unprecedented destruction, a calamity which perhaps will never be fully removed from the memory of those who survived.
Yet what is perhaps more disturbing is the way the Syrian regime has clamored to reap the benefits of this natural disaster and to attempt to gain re-entry into the international community, which is stuck between coming to the aid of the Syrian people or continuing to isolate the Syrian dictators.
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While these two objectives are not mutually exclusive, many countries chiefly amongst them some of the Arab Gulf states, opted to use humanitarian aid and rescue efforts to normalize relations with the Assad regime, as they guilelessly believe that empowering the Syrian dictator and bringing him in from the cold will curb the unheeded influence of Iran and its various proxies across the levant.
The sight of Assad touring some of the devasted regions of Syria, with that silly smirk on his face, trying to use the death and suffering of the poor Syrians, can only draw similar images to the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un whose recent public appearances with his own daughter attest to these two despots insensitivity to the plight of their own people, while they continue to take their two nations hostage.
Coincidently, while North Korea has been suffering a chronic food shortage and is staring at a potential famine, Kim Jong-un continues to isolate the country and drive it further into the abyss by investing in the expansion of both his nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Amidst reports of potential death from hunger, the North Korean dictator opted to loop missiles over his neighbors making a dire situation even worse.
Ironically Kim Jong-un like his Syrian counterpart refuses to acknowledge the abysmal situation of their nations and instead blame the plight and suffering of their people on the siege of the west. Economic sanctions are designed to weaken these totalitarian states.
For some this analogy between Syria and North Korea might come off as farfetched, yet these two rogue nations are closer than they appear, as the regimes have maintained their abysmal human rights records and each establishing republics of fear. Any attempts to question their leaders are met with violence. While both Assad and Kim Jong-un are ridiculed in the liberal media as belonging to the cold war, their brutality and thirst for power is certainly up to date.
In the past, the west and other nations have gambled in normalizing relations with these despots. Former President Trump went as far as to make a trip to North Korea which was accompanied with empty promises from Kim Jong-un. Equally, former French President Nicola Sarkozy back in 2008, tried to break Assad isolation and went as far as to invite him to the Bastille Day celebrations, an honor which the Syrian president reciprocated by further doubling down on the anti-western axis.
At this stage Assad, has nothing to offer the many nations rushing to his side, other than to continue to smile for the cameras and speak about his desire to rebuild Syria and continue to rule. To accept to indulge Assad in this delusion is not only to condemn the Syrian people to more death and suffering but it will also further empower the same elements these countries wish to contain. While Iran and Russia might disagree on some issues in Syria, i.e., Israel, both regimes have cooperated in the war in Ukraine, with the former providing Russia with drone technology and possibly foot soldiers.
Equally Bashar al-Assad knows well that his survival rests on playing these paradoxes while promising the international community lies and wishful scenarios of reform.
Normalizing relation with the Syrian regime or with the North Koreans is not simply a moral and ethical step but a political move which as past precedent indicates will not bode well to those who believe that you can teach old dictators’ new tricks. Until that realization is achieved the people of Syria are perhaps better off beating on the forces of nature, no matter how destructive they might be.
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