Rigid regime and fragmented opposition in stalemate
- United Arab Emirates: Wednesday, October 31 - 2012 at 08:45
- PRESS RELEASE
With a regime that is convinced it can win, and an even more determined - if fragmented - opposition force, it might be too late for any real politically viable solution based on diplomacy within Syria.
The panel included Emile El Hokayem, Senior Fellow for Regional Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and Hassan Hassan, Editorial writer at The National who contributes daily on various issues affecting and influencing the region and the UAE.
Moderating the discussion was Francis Matthew, Editor-at-Large for Gulf News, who has been Editor of the celebrated newspaper for over a decade and is known for his in-depth analysis of political and social events in GCC countries.
The discussion started with an analysis of the causes of the uprising. Emile El Hokayem commented, "Syria is not that different from other Arab states in the sense that the population suffered from state brutality and economic deprivation. What does make Syria different is that it is one of the few states that has had a successful father-son succession. There was a feeling that Bashar al-Assad had settled into his authority over time and that he was more in sync with his population - with a younger more 'useful' image - and that there was a sense of progress in Syria."
He went on to clarify however that this 'sense' of progress did not last long. In shifting his focus from rural to urban Syria - in a complete turnaround from his father's policies; Bashar in effect 'won Damascus but lost Syria'. He pointed out that, in the initial stages of uprising, it was in the peripheral towns that the dissent really gathered force, steam, and momentum.
Hassan Hassan echoed this stating, "The causes of the uprising are the legacy of corruption, the legacy of a police state, and the legacy of negligence."
Another salient point made was that Bashar, in effect, discarded the tool of the promise of social mobility that had served his father so well. El Hokayem remarked, "There was no longer the sense that you could enter an organisation and rise to the top - in fact if you look at the appointments, in terms of ministers, ambassadors, and governors that have been made during his administration they were mostly friends of the regime, which in a way eroded the regime's power base over time."
Looking at the current situation and the prospects for the future the panel examined a number of key issues, remarking that much of what is being witnessed in Syria at the moment is in great part due to the country's long suppressed cultural diversity. El Hokayem commented, "There is a lack of knowledge, internationally, in the region, and even in Syria itself about Syrian society, and that Syrian identity is in fact a portfolio rather than a singular ethos. A factor that has played a large role in the efficiency of both the opposition forces and the regime."
Hassan expressed the opinion that if the original concerns of the people: referencing the youths that were arrested for anti-regime graffiti, had been addressed, the escalation into civil war could have been avoided. Emile however countered, posing the question of whether a response which would have addressed the issues at hand in any tangible way was in fact possible from a country such as Syria who has so heavily invested in its security system and forces.
He raised the possibility that the mind-set of the Syrian regime, the general contempt that this type of regime holds its population in, makes it almost impossible for them to even consider concessions or to respond in any other way than by force.
Speaking about the role of foreign intervention and aid to the opposition forces in Syria, Hassan commented, "At the current rate most of the foreign aid to the rebel forces, in terms of the quality of the support, is at times more harmful than helpful, stating that foreign entities should either "step up or step out". El Hokayem echoed this, but added that decisive strategy is needed."
He commented "The performance of the opposition forces were at best uneven, and most importantly lacked cohesion and a well-thought-out approach that allows for planning beyond the battle in order to create some form of stability in the future."
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