Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Is Bashar Following in Ghaddafi's Footsteps?

Bashar's fourth speech since the uprisings was long on hot air and short on substance, not unlike his first three. In fact there is nothing, absolutely nothing new in the speech that should inspire hope that some modicum of reality or pragmatism has seeped into his thick skull. On the contrary as the crisis deepens and his regime unravels, Bashar's tone has be become more desperately defiant. The speech was rambling, full of hubris, faulty logic, paranoid delusions, outright lies and false bravado. Some the explanatory details he gave were laughable were the consequences of such a disturbed thought process not so tragic for the people of Syria. We now learn, for example, that there are 60, not 62 or 73, but exactly 60 media outlets worldwide who have conspired to tarnish the image of Syrian regime by falsifying and fabrication news about Syria.

The president  paints every last opponent of the his regime with the same terrorist, traitor, agent of foreign powers brush. It follows that they have to be crushed with an iron fist. In effect, he says, there is no opposition to talk to. As in his ABC interview, which was incidentally, according to him, also edited to make him look bad, he shows no remorse, no guilt and no admission of wrongdoing.  All the while his security forces and shabeeha thugs continue to kill, maim, imprison and torture unarmed civilians.  As Bashar mocks the AL in his speech, his henchmen are playing a shell game with Observers rendering the whole exercise a farce. Some honorable individual observers have had enough and walked out.

How can anyone then, against such a putrid background, take any of Bashar's talk of reform seriously? How can anyone  still think that there is any sliver of hope that a negotiated settlement is possible? Bashar has had 11 months to respond to this challenge of his authority and the only response has been an unrelenting and increasingly brutal crackdown. Compromise is not possible when the side with the overwhelming force, the side that can instantaneously stop the killing if it chooses to,  refuses to do so.

The regime's path is not only destructive for Syria, it is eventually self-destructive.  The only way I can foresee a somewhat orderly transition is for a palace revolt that would bring in more pragmatic elements capable of steering the country away form the abyss.  This unfortunately, is a long shot and I am increasingly worried that Bashar's path will take Syria down the same path as Libya: civil war, with or without foreign military intervention.

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