Very much like the “Libya episode” of the “Arab Spring,” the Arab League, frustrated with its pertinent calls for moderation, a halt to use of state’s armed forces on masses demanding “democratic reforms” that would bring landmark individual and social democratic rights to the Arab streets, ruled to excommunicate the Basher al-Assad regime of Syria.
Unlike the Catholic Church’s excommunication order that no longer poses any existential threat to the excommunicated, experience has shown with the lynching of Colonel Gadhafi that once legitimacy is lost in the Arab neighborhood; once he is declared anathema by the Arab League; worse, once the last emperor declares “his days are numbered,” irrespective how mighty a dictator might be he is on the way out. There is no absolute necessity to wait for the lynch mob. It was seen over the past months that fleeing and seeking refuge in a “friendly” neighbor or stepping down and initiating an evolutionary transition might be more advisable in view of the tragedy which was so drastic that the world felt pity even for dictator Gadhafi.
The Cairo decision of the 22-member Arab League to suspend membership and call for sanctions on Damascus in effect amounted to the isolation of Syria in its own Arab family, as well as in its region. The Syrian regime, though the economy of the country is already reeling under the weight of sanctions from a web of Western sanctions, including Turkey, will still manage despite the Arab League move in finding ways of survival with the help of political and economic allies in Iran and further east. Yet, it does not require fortune teller talents to estimate that in the weeks and months ahead as a direct result of the compromise in living conditions Basher al-Assad will have far more troubles on the Syrian streets.
Yet, no one should think for one moment that Syria might be another Libya. Unlike Libya where former dictator Gadhafi had eliminated all potential “enemies” and left the country with no proper armed forces, Syria has first of all a very-well established state tradition. It has been one of the most consolidated police states of the world, has an extraordinary web of intelligence services and it has remarkable armed forces. A peaceful transition is not possible at all in Syria. As it appears, the country is heading to a bitter civil war, which might not be in the interest of the regional or global game setters, particularly of Turkey. Just very recently Turkish President Abdullah Gül warned Syria that though Turkey, for the sake of good neighborly relations preferred to ignore for more than two decades that Syria hosted Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists and their chieftain, if Damascus attempts to use the Kurdish card on Turkey once again, this time it might pay a very heavy price.
Indeed, from the “Kurdish card” to “Hezbollah card” or “sectarian card” the regime in Syria has many “regional” and “intra-Arab” cards on hand. Using those cards may accelerate the end of the Assad regime. Perhaps Assad’s Syria cannot engage in such suicidal adventures, yet like a cornered cat fighting back, if it concludes in any way that in the Greater Middle East Game they have to play out an apocalyptic tragedy, no one can guarantee their exit from the scene without playing at least some major cards they hold.
If Syria explodes, this entire region may explode. If those who make plans with the assumption that Assad will be another Gadhafi and Syria another Libya don’t wake up from such utopias, I am afraid soon we will all start talking about an even graver situation.