Whatever al-Assad promised on releasing hell, he kept his word

Whatever al-Assad promised on releasing hell, he kept his word

As news keeps emerging from Lebanon on tensions spiraling into violence, it is ironic that the only side that has acted consistently in the Syrian crisis turned out to be the al-Assad regime.

Whatever Bashar al-Assad promised at the beginning of the turmoil regarding its dangerous consequences, he has indeed kept his word.

Let’s recall what he promised: In his first interview with a Western journalist a couple of months after the uprising began, he told The Sunday Telegraph in Oct. 2011 that any threat to his rule would unleash an earthquake that would burn the entire Middle East.

“Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the fault line and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake … Do you want to see another Afghanistan, or tens of Afghanistans? Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region. If the plan is to divide Syria, it is to divide the whole region,” he said.

It is no coincidence that he gave the message of “all hell breaking loose in the region” to the Western public, which has had enough of interventions in the Middle East.

In contrast to the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) deep disappointment on being left alone on the Syrian front, one has to admit that al-Assad has read the mood in the Western world more accurately. A year after his statement, he is now delivering on his promise to burn the region as the crisis spills over into Turkey and Lebanon.

He has also been trying to exploit the West’s fear of radical Islam by arguing that the struggle is between Islamists and secularists. Yet not only did he order the release of Salafists from jail at the beginning of the crisis, he also allowed them to acquire weapons. There are more and more news stories in the Western media about Islamists fighting in the opposition ranks.

It is, of course, unfortunate that the AKP government failed to read the West correctly and analyze properly the rationale behind Bashar’s irrationality.

This article is obviously no eulogy for Bashar. With a bloody legacy that will certainly surpass that of his father, there is no place for Bashar in the new Middle East. However, instead of relying on supporting the opposition and expecting the U.S. to toughen its position after the presidential elections, Turkey needs to focus on the right way to solve the crisis; that is, Moscow.

Western unwillingness to intervene in Syria should by now have eased Russian concerns regarding military intervention becoming a rule rather than an exception. It is now time to address their second concern, that of radical Islamists taking hold in the region. There should be efforts to convince Moscow that the very Islamists that it fears will become more powerful so long as the war in Syria continues. Instead of wasting its energy on convincing Washington to establish a buffer zone or no fly zone, Ankara should push Washington to sit seriously at the table with Russians for a solution that will secure regime change.