Cracking code of al-Assad's words in new phase of Syria battle
The nearly two-year-long bloody conflict between military forces and outsider-backed armed rebels in Syria appeared to enter a new phase this week, with the president further challenging not only the opposition but also its foreign supporters, as well as the U.S.-initiated crack within an already deeply divided anti-regime camp.
President Bashar al-Assad has been widely making headlines with his harsh bashing of friend-turned-foe Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his “neo-Ottomanist desire to become the caliph or the new sultan of the region,” in a recent and rare interview with the Russia Today (RT) television network. However, ignoring the sensational echoing of his words, more vigilant eyes focused on his dire warning in the event of a foreign military intervention in his country.
Emphasizing the high cost that Western countries could not afford if Syria was attacked, al-Assad said any attack would “have a domino effect that will affect the world from the Atlantic to the Pacific,” adding that that is exactly why he does not think “the West is going in that direction. But if they do so, nobody can tell what is next.”
President al-Assad has issued similar warnings before, but this time he further expanded the boundaries of a possible catastrophe spilling out of his country. Declaring that the conflict would not have only regional consequences, al-Assad gave the message that “he will not go alone,” and that his long-anticipated departure will have global ramifications.
His warnings might be seen as “the very final daring stand” of an embattled leader who has long been under mounting heavy attacks, but considering the ethnically-fragile characteristic of Syria’s region and the country’s unique relations with its allies like Russia, China or Iran, his expansion of calamity would be more than a last outcry.
In the RT interview, al-Assad explicitly lashed out at the Turkish leadership for its open support of armed rebels, but more interesting was his implicit criticism in which he said Syria was “the last stronghold of secularism and stability in the region and co-existence,” targeting the sensitive and often-voiced principles of Turkey.
While al-Assad acknowledged that the fight with rebels was “a new kind of war; terrorism through proxies,” the opposition has recently suffered a major unexpected blow from a close ally, with the U.S. secretary of state voicing a long-standing distrust and dissatisfaction with the opposition, which is at odds with itself.
The top U.S. diplomat’s criticism of the main opposition bloc, the Syrian National Council, coincided with a new Washington-backed player, the Syrian National Initiative, appearing on the stage. Led by businessman-turned-dissident Riad Seif, the Initiative aimed at uniting all the factions of opposition, but it may eventually create more rifts within the opponent’s ranks since the leaders of the Council will not easily concede defeat. Gathered in Qatar’s capital, the Syrian opposition groups were mulling over the Initiative’s blueprint, which calls for absorption of the Council, whose leaders will fight against a minimized role within the opposition even if the majority responds to the Initiative positively.
If Syrian opposition groups lose more time with a fight within, it is inevitable that they will also lose outside support, which will give al-Assad more room to buy some time. However, preserving the crisis and instability in Syria can be seen as possible today but not for forever. That brings up the scenario brought up by al-Assad, which would see no winner.