Arab World: Tragedy and farce in Syria (JERUSALEM POST) By JONATHAN SPYER 04/06/12)
JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-Top
The supposed acceptance by the regime of Bashar Assad of UN Special
Envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point plan represents the latest phase of the
Syrian dictator’s strategy to buy time in order to crush the uprising
against his rule. According to the plan, the regime is obliged to
withdraw troops and armor from Syrian urban centers by April 10th.
On Sunday, the second “Friends of Syria” conference in Istanbul
issued a deadline for Assad to begin implementing the plan. Assad,
the conference declared, would be judged on his “deeds, rather than
A Norwegian major-general, described as a “veteran Middle East
peacemaker” has been appointed to lead the UN support team that will
soon depart for Syria. UN press releases have not yet clarified to
which areas of the Middle East Major-General Robert Mood has actually
brought peace in the course of his career. In any case, he and his
team are to evaluate the situation on the ground and hold talks with
both sides in order to assess the prospects for the deployment of a
team of unarmed observers in Syria.
Having accepted Annan’s plan, the regime is now ramping up its
attacks on centers of the uprising. The army is continuing its
rampage through defiant Idleb Province and the Deraa area.
On the day following the regime’s announcement of its latest
acceptance of Annan’s proposals, 60 Syrian civilians were killed by
Assad wants to achieve the maximum level of pacification before
offering whatever gesture he chooses to make toward implementing the
Annan plan. There is no reason at all to think that Assad’s notional
acceptance of the UN envoy’s proposals will have any serious effect
on the bloody counterattack currently being conducted by the Assad
THE PATTERN is familiar. In November, the regime proclaimed
acceptance of an Arab League plan. The blood-letting, however,
A team of hapless Arab League spectators, led by a suspected Sudanese
war criminal, General Mustafa al-Dabi, were dispatched to the country.
These men spent a few weeks watching Assad’s forces butcher Syrian
civilians before being quietly withdrawn. The regime has also twice
before announced its acceptance of proposals by Annan – to no
The current plan envisages the commencement of an “inclusive, Syrian-
led political process” that will follow a “cease-fire including the
withdrawal of troops and heavy weapons from inside and around
These are the key elements of the Annan proposal, which also calls
for the release of “arbitrarily detained persons,” free movement
across Syria for journalists, provision of humanitarian aid via a UN
mechanism and respect for “freedom of association” and the right to
The most immediately notable aspect of these proposals is their
somewhat otherwordly quality.
They envisage no timetable for a transition of power and do not even
call for the dictator to step down. Rather, Assad is supposed to
begin an openended process of dialogue with the opposition.
The Assad regime has taken the trouble over the last year to develop
tame opposition elements, with which it will be happy to continue
talking and to broadcast the talks via its official media outlets to
the world. The regime can then claim that it is complying with the
demands of the international community. A small percentage of the
very large volume of Syrian citizens rounded up and detained without
charge by the regime over the last year may be released. At the same
time, the slaughter of the real opposition, mobilized by local
coordinating committees and by the Free Syrian Army, will continue.
The regime will proclaim that while it accepts Annan’s plan, it
cannot be expected not to take action against “armed gangs.” A few
carefully marshalled international journalists may be permitted to
enter, as took place after the acceptance of the Arab League plan.
These journalists will be encouraged to film scenes of normality in
Assad’s allies in Russia and China will be pleased with the turn of
events and will make encouraging noises. It is possible that the UN
Security Council may even succeed in passing a watered-down
resolution setting out a timetable for further progress in Syria.
None of this will have the slightest effect on the civil war already
under way in the country.
All of this is quite obvious, and is disputed by hardly anyone among
serious observers of events in Syria. It is therefore difficult not
to conclude that there is simply no real interest on the part of the
West to help bring about the end of the Assad dictatorship.
Assad has benefited throughout from a de facto international
coalition that supports him. Iran and Hezbollah provide the
assistance on the ground. Russia and China are responsible for the
Either opposing international efforts will be made to help the Syrian
rebels transform themselves into a real, physical threat to the
dictatorship, or the dictatorship is likely to survive.
This reality is quite clear, and has been clear throughout the
uprising. Arms and training for the Free Syrian Army and moves toward
a buffer zone in the north, or acquiescence to the continued rule of
the Assad family dictatorship. Currently the West is choosing the
Karl Marx, in the 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, famously asserted
that “great world-historic facts and personages appear twice. The
first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” Marx, however, did
not foresee the current international response to the situation in
Syria. This manages, uniquely, to combine the essential qualities of
tragedy and farce into a single picture. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY