Geography according to Assad
A couple of days before the start of Ramadan, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallem responded to fresh EU sanctions on his regime by saying: “ We will forget that Europe exists on the map.” Poof! Just like that, a whole continent ceased to be as far as Assad and his supporters are concerned. Judging by the latest developments, more countries will disappear from the face of the earth thanks to the same Baathist magic feat.
On Sunday, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah issued a statement urging Assad to stop the “killing machine and end the bloodshed.” This is as harsh a condemnation as one could expect from the Arab world’s biggest autocracy. The fact that it is 5 months-late and has ulterior motives –namely, taking a jab at Iran and countering its mounting influence in the region– takes nothing from its significance.
It follows feeble criticisms of the Syrian regime’s Ramadan massacre by the GCC council and the Arab League a few days earlier, which as pathetic as they may be, indicate that the tide is turning on Assad. It is no mystery that Arab rulers, especially Saudi’s, do not view the pro-democracy movements sweeping the region favorably and do not shy away from intervening in neighboring states to quell a burgeoning uprising (Bahrain), maintain a devil-they-know in power (Yemen) or sabotage democratic transitions (Egypt). Still, these autocrats felt compelled to react to the abhorrent killing rampage taking place in Syria at the hands of the security-apparatus of a fellow autocrat. Saudi, Kuwait and Bahrain went as far as recalling their respective ambassadors from Damascus! The irony of such a measure is not lost on anyone but this helps a great deal in further isolating Assad. If other countries follow suit and if heavier sanctions and an arms embargo are enacted, this could precipitate the end of the Baathist regime.
Adding to Assad’s woes, Turkey, a key regional player has apparently “lost patience” with him and has sent their FM to Damascus with an angry missive. Mr Davutoglu met with Assad today but afterwards, he toned down the rhetoric a few notches – maybe he vented his ire during the meeting and had none left for the statement he gave to the press. Or maybe he just wanted to go back to Ankara with all his limbs intact. Who knows?
While these diplomatic acrobatics are taking place and while these long-awaited harsh condemnations of Assad are fusing from all directions, thousands of Syrian lives are in imminent danger. Just how much innocent blood will be spilled before the tightening noose finally strangles this criminal regime, only time will tell. What’s certain is that geography is getting a lot simpler for the Baathist thugs currently in charge. The world’s map according to Assad is shrinking dangerously. Soon, it will only contain Iran and South Lebanon!