Damascus Between Its Internal and External Fronts

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A handout image released by the Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network on 25 April 2012, shows the destruction of a building allegedly during a Syrian government offensive in Taftanaz in Idlib province. (Photo: AFP - HO)

By: Salameh Kaileh

Published Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Salama Kayla was arrested in Damascus on Tuesday by Syrian security forces. This was his latest submission to the opinion page of Al-Akhbar, sent before his imprisonment.

One year after the start of the revolution, one can pose the following question: Where is the Syrian situation today?

The regime wants to demonstrate that it has resolved the matter, although it intensified its violence by systematically destroying several cities and shelling the areas where opposition is widespread. It has also expanded its arrest campaigns. It appeared to be engaging in a comprehensive war across the country, demonstrating that it is still unable to stop the revolution.

Recently, the regime seemed to be relying more on its “external allies” – Russia, China, and Iran – than on its internal strength.

It has now become clear that the issue is about the fate of this regime more than it is about the status of the revolution, which becomes more apparent every day that it continues. It now includes almost every corner of Syria, as Aleppo and Damascus have become strong participants, after previously having set the example of a popular majority siding with the regime.

There are some areas of the country that have not participated due to concerns about sectarianism generated by the regime. Many people fear existing alternatives to the regime, based on a general concern over the Islamists coming to power. But this matter will be considered differently in the coming stage, given the new revolutionary prospects that are appearing on the horizon.

This situation forces the authorities to shift attention to the internal front to wage a comprehensive war, while externally relying on their “Russian allies.”

Internally, the war will not defeat the revolution. It may weaken its armed wing due to the disproportionate power of the state, but it cannot stop the popular movement that shows no signs of abating – despite all the violence and bloodshed facing the rebels.

Undoubtedly, keeping the uprising at a “low boil” requires the mobilization of all the regime’s repressive agencies and resorting to support from other sources found here and there. This consumes the authorities and exhausts the state because of the lack of long-term funding, the collapse of “morale,” and the fragmentation of the forces pushing for war. Added to that is the diminishing ability of Russia to provide the regime with “international protection.”

This situation could lead to one of two scenarios. First, it could lead to a decline in the state’s capabilities and a weakening of the repressive agencies, leading to the escalation of the uprising and the “occupation of the squares,” as the rebels dream, and thus the collapse of the regime.

The other option entails a major internal disintegration bringing down the regime in some way, thus imposing a solution that puts an end to the killing and achieves some of the demands of the uprising.

Externally, the Russians cannot protect the regime indefinitely, especially due to its impotence in ending the uprising and general internal weakness. And given their importance in supporting the regime – not only politically (because they too are criminally responsible for the killing and destruction) – their international standing will subsequently become more difficult to maintain. They are likely to fritter away the “shift” they accomplished with China when they sought to “stop Washington’s rampage” at the UN Security Council (UNSC) and worked to redress the balance of the “new world order.”

The United States, which does not want to topple the regime (at least for now), is cleverly drawing the Russians into a Syrian quagmire. It could resemble what happened to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, but without the Russian military intervention, fueled by the bloodshed of the regime, and showing the Russians as defenders of “unrivaled barbarity.”

Therefore, the US (and the Zionist state) does not want the conflict in Syria to end soon. It is not concerned with the victory of the revolution. Perhaps, on the contrary, it wants to consolidate its hold over it after it has been drained of its energy. (Not to mention that Washington’s new ruling businessmen have been eyeing Syria for some time.) Perhaps the US believes that it can do that by exhausting the Russians through Moscow’s inability to find a solution to the crisis and its stand in support of the regime.

By sticking with the regime and staunchly defending it, the Russians lose everything they sought to achieve on an international level – and without even winning Syria. Thus, Russia shows it has become imperialist, but without successfully exercising imperialism in a way that would serve its capitalism, perhaps due to the mafia-like nature of the capitalism controlling Russia. Therefore, it emerges so far as a stupid imperialist.

Even if the Russians back down on exercising the veto at the UNSC, there is no indication of a military intervention in Syria. Rather, the imperialist countries are leaning toward exacerbating the situation, as mentioned earlier. Thus, the Russians appear as if they are the one “pressuring” the regime more than anything else, which prolongs the conflict without leading to the collapse of the state.

Will the Russian position change? Certainly, and perhaps it has begun to. But it must be noted that their role will be weaker. The Russians may have proposed a resolution resembling the Yemeni model through handing over power to the vice president and forming a “national unity” government (or transitional council) to lead the transitional period, only to be rejected by the regime. But playing at a lower level for a solution, or even safeguarding it, is no longer possible after the recent escalation in the killing, the regime’s military invasion, and the surge in unprecedented violence.

So, a solution without the regime’s departure is not possible, and fabricating “national unity” cannot contribute to a resolution either. The conflict has exceeded all the cosmetic solutions the Russians proposed, and now they need a real solution. They must give up on supporting the regime and protecting it. This is possible, without fear of the non-existent and exaggerated Western intervention to justify violence against the Syrian people.

The regime has failed to find a decisive resolution and is resorting instead to the highest degree of violence, which is consuming its institutions and cohesiveness, initiating a process of decay. Its “international ally” will not save it – not Russia, China, Iran, or Hezbollah.

A revolution of one year and one month has driven the regime into isolation, impotence, and weakness. When the people insist on change, nothing can stop their revolution – except change being achieved. This is something obvious we learned from history, and it is being illustrated today before our very eyes as the shelling and the rockets (which were not fired at the Zionist state) are fired at neighborhoods and cities.

The year 2011 is not 1980. The plan that worked at that time is a failure today because it is the people who are engaging in the conflict and not just a small sectarian segment.

Salama Kayla is Syria-based Arab writer.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar's editorial policy.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


I am sorry, but I could NOT take seriously the author who still (!) calls FSA "armed wing" of the "revolution". Since when Saudi king payrolls something even remotely worth the name of "revolution".

We were told that the author is a Marxist and condemns violence and are esp. against any outside support for Syrian revolution. I am sorry, I cannot see nothing of it in the article.

Not mentioning that words about "non-existent and exaggerated Western intervention" are just a lie. By the way, is the intervention "non-existent" OR "exaggerated"? It seems that the author still could not completely deny the reality of NATO imperialism, but did not want to admit it either. Lies are not easy to tell when the truth is too obvious.

In short, the arrest of the author has nothing to do with his credibility, even if one wants to give him benefit of the doubt. Free him and ignore him, at least till "non-existent and exaggerated" NATO bombs start ruin Syria .I hope they will not, and they are not now ONLY because of Russia and China, so I suppose the author is ready to bet the future of his country on NATO being somehow not interested into ruination of Syria. A not so clever bet given the history of the NATO in the ME

How can we take the so-called "mumana'a" and their hypocritical takhween seriously when they ignore the the Asad regime's collaboration with the Americans in Gulf War for which they were rewarded with the occupation of Lebanon, something which benefitted them in the billions, and their allies who rode to power on American tanks in Afghanistan and Iraq and who wouldn't be in power were it not for this?

The writer is one of these believers that the omnipotence of the U.S. (and its Israeli ally) has no limits, and that change in Syria is exclusively by getting rid of the current government. There are players on the political scene who can counter this American hegemony, and dialogue with today's Syrian administration is the only way out. The best exit formula for the regime is a Gorbashev-style scenario, nothing more nothing less.

I disagree completely with this "quagmire" theory, and with the assertion that "the US and the Zionist state do not want the conflict in Syria to end soon." In my opinion, Washington needs to cut Hezbollah's supply lines before it can attack Iran, in order to avert a counter-attack by missiles from southern Lebanon, which I'm sure Hezbollah would be very happy to perform. This is the over-riding strategic reason for the destabilization of Syria, and always has been.

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