Who does Syria belong to?

Octavia Nasr

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As he jogged casually with his troops, Yair Golan, the general who commands Israeli forces on the Syrian and Lebanese fronts sent what is supposed to be a message to President Bashar Assad, "There are no winds of war."

Remember this scene for as long as you live. And remember that the days before that, and months before that, and years before that, Israel violated Syrian air space and conducted strikes against targets it deemed dangerous to its security. While none of the earlier strikes dating back to 2009 were claimed by Israel or protested by Syria, the last one was conducted openly and targeted military depots containing what Israel contends are weapons sent by Iran and intended for Hezbollah. Reportedly, dozens of sites were targeted in the latest raids and around three hundred Syrian soldiers were killed.

The Syrians “keep the right to retaliate” said Syria. Hezbollah is mum for now as its threats came earlier than the blunt strikes in the usual rhetoric aimed at playing with fire. While Iran has sent a delegation to the disputed islands of Hormuz to remind the UAE and other Gulf nations how they might be affected if they allow the west to use them as launch pads for any military intervention in Syria.

Winds of war

Back to the Israeli jogging general and his words, “There are no winds of war.” According to the Israeli propaganda machine, this comment along with other statements made by Israeli officials on several media outlets, are meant to let the Syrian president know that the latest raids are not aimed to weaken him in any way or his regime. Nor are they meant to support the rebels fighting to remove him from power. Their targeted strikes, they say, are only aimed at Hezbollah. If we believe local Israeli media, the same message was sent to Assad through “diplomatic channels.”

Syria is not exclusive to Assad and his clan anymore. It does not matter how much support, verbal and military, Hezbollah serves the regime.

Octavia Nasr

Only two years ago, if you read the world’s headlines or took a walk in Syria, you would have gotten the impression that Syria belonged to The Assad family and their Baathist regime. Today, Syria is claimed by many; people who couldn't point to the country on a map two years ago speak “with authority” on what they think should happen there. Israel is openly violating Syrian airspace and attacking facilities, unapologetic for the destruction or the deaths its air raids are causing.

Hezbollah fighters are being shipped to Syria to fight to death alongside the Assad regime. Other fighters arrive from as far as Afghanistan to fight and die alongside insurgents affiliated with al Qaeda. The Free Syrian Army is receiving arms and weapons from Turkey and the U.S. on a regular basis. Aid agencies have been pouring in, each with their own agenda trying to help as much as they can.

Ordinary Syrians are dying by the tens of thousands, or fleeing the country by the millions. Innocent Syrians, who remain in country, find themselves hijacked by the warring factions just waiting for the next massacre or the next attack. Trying to hold on to whatever is left of their human dignity and their nation.

What a quagmire and what a painful chaotic situation begging the question, “Who does Syria really belong to?”

One thing is certain: Syria Is not exclusive to Assad and his clan anymore. It does not matter how much support, verbal and military, Hezbollah serves the regime. Nor can Russian immunity and all the Iranian lip service help the bankrupt and dying Assad dictatorship. The truth is Assad is no longer a legitimate president. His authority has been smeared by his own actions first against his own people. Then by the chaos his country is going through. Finally by an enemy neighbor that violates its air space when it chooses, then when the world is crying, “War,” its Prime Minister continues on with his scheduled visit to China leaving it to a jogging general to “comfort” Assad and the world that Israel means no war.

This article was first published in Lebanon-based Annahar on May 7, 2013.

Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks.

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