Between Implementation and Evasion: Assad’s Policies Raise Questions About the Country’s Future
- updated: August 21, 2023
In his recent interview on the Emirati news channel Sky News1, it appears that Assad has closed all doors, particularly the door to the Arab Initiative framework based on implementing the roadmap, which follows a step-by-step approach. This roadmap has received some support from Arab, regional, and international states, and many consider it the sole solution to the current Syrian crisis. Especially since he should begin implementing the agreed-upon steps within this roadmap, which he is supposed to have endorsed during his attendance at the Arab Summit based on the Amman Declaration2, the meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, and culminating in the Jeddah Statement.
Assad Shuts the Door on Political Solutions:
It is evident that Assad is distancing himself from his commitment to this agreement, as manifested in his statement that relations with Arab nations remain formal, as described by the official television, after the meeting being more of a trap. Regarding the Arab ambition to limit Iran’s role in the region, it seems elusive, as Assad reaffirmed his commitment to relations with Iran and Russia, believing that Syria, in previous years, demonstrated its ability to choose its allies correctly. Assad has also intensified his rhetoric against Turkey, confirming its involvement in supporting terrorist groups in Syria, such as “Jabhat al-Nusra” and “Ahrar al-Sham.”
As for the refugee issue, Assad has reduced it to basic services, evading his responsibilities through a security pretext and human rights claim. He spoke of Syria’s inability to facilitate the return of refugees unless they have access to basic services like water, electricity, education, and healthcare. He argued that there can be no return without the essentials of life, according to him. This is logical, yet he did not mention anything about his government’s plan to secure these services, except for shifting the responsibility onto other nations, a form of clear blackmail towards these countries.
On the other hand, he ignored the conditions of millions of Syrians in areas under his control when he talked about the loss of life’s essentials, suggesting that he only sees them as human shields, disregarding the importance of these needs.
In regards to the file of the Captagon, Assad, as usual, disowns the responsibility and attributes it to the spread of criminal groups that operate in times of chaos and are difficult to control. He places the blame on other countries that stand behind this chaos.
When it comes to the file of the chemical weapons, Assad, as usual, distances himself from taking responsibility and attributes it to the spread of mafias that thrive in chaotic situations, making it difficult to control them, and he places the blame on other countries that are behind this chaos.
As for the deteriorating economic situation, Assad believes that there is no solution in sight as long as Arab countries do not contribute to supporting the Syrian economy and lifting the sanctions. Therefore, the economic wheel will not turn and we will not witness growth. The assistance of friends Iran and Russia is not sufficient or effective, and the debts have become large in Syria and are pressuring its allies, especially given their preoccupation with their internal problems and existential battles. Here, he relies on more patience, amidst the ongoing deterioration of the living conditions for the Syrian people inside the country.
It seems that the regime has openly declared its bankruptcy, amidst the rapid decline of the Syrian pound, and the absence of any governmental plans to address the situation or even mitigate the deterioration.
Interestingly, Assad believes that the lack of investment in the country is a result of the negative image of the war, ignoring the basic environment for investment, which is political stability. He emphasises that he will not take any steps towards a political solution, even if it’s internal, and refuses to engage in dialogue with externally manufactured opposition. He only recognizes locally manufactured opposition that has never called for his departure. Therefore, he has also closed the door on the Constitutional Committee and will not take any steps related to early elections or relinquish power. He claims that he won’t leave power for the sake of his own attributes, but for the benefit of Syrians who have never called for his departure. He argues that those who demanded his departure during the early days of the revolution were only a hundred thousand, and they do not represent the will of the Syrian people. He sees the war as unrelated to his persona and believes that relinquishing power would be considered as fleeing, asserting that his presence is protection against the control of foreign countries. Thus, he claims that he has not betrayed his people and will repeat his actions of killing and destruction if he could turn back time, because the battle is a battle for Syria’s existence.
Between official speeches and practical steps:
Despite Assad’s statements regarding the nature of Syrian-Arab relations and his consideration of the Arab initiative as a trap and a snare, in local media, after it was considered a victory, however, Syrian Foreign Minister Mekdad participated in a meeting in Cairo on August 15, which aimed, as stated in the final statement “to follow up on the implementation of the Oman statement issued on May 1, and to enhance the Arab leadership role in resolving the Syrian crisis and addressing its political, security, and humanitarian repercussions, in accordance with the step-by-step approach that aligns with UN Security Council Resolution 2254”. This confirms that the Arab approach aligns with the Security Council resolution that includes the formation of a transitional governing body in Syria, with representatives from the government and the opposition, to manage the country’s affairs during the transition period.
The final statement of the conference also approved the reassembly of the Constitutional Committee in the Sultanate of Oman before the end of the year, facilitated by the United Nations. This reflects the regime’s readiness for dialogue with the manufactured opposition outside the country. Additionally, a platform will be established to register the names of refugees who wish to return, in coordination with host countries and the United Nations, under international supervision, and to reveal the fate of the missing in Syria. According to the statement, the Syrian Foreign Minister pledged that his country continues to work on releasing all Syrian kidnappers, reflecting recognition of the presence of detainees. A committee of experts will also be formed to monitor the implementation of agreements and work on the ground. The committee’s work will be on the agenda of participants in the next meeting in Iraq. Therefore, Assad’s statements on Sky News channel do not go beyond being mere words from a president devoid of the features of sovereign decision-making.
The Unknown Future:
In the end, it seems that Assad, in his meeting, has closed all doors and was clear that the war will not end and the future doesn’t look bright. His chances of responding to Arab and international initiatives have vanished, and he rejected moving forward with any political solution to end the crisis. This will lead to frustration among many Syrians in his controlled areas, who had hoped for Syria’s return to the Arab fold, a victory that would open the door to wide investments and lift sanctions off their shoulders. But what happened was the opposite, and it can be said that this disappointment was behind the recent peaceful movements in Syria, which warn of their patience running out and their inability to endure further, as Assad fears.
The situation in Syria has worsened, and it has entered a new and more severe stage than before, and we believe that matters, especially economic ones, will deteriorate rapidly in the coming days, weeks, and possibly months, and it is possible that we will move to other scenarios, and perhaps one of them is a return or an escalation of armed conflict, as things cannot remain as they are forever.
We, in the Syrian Women’s Political Movement, seek to achieve a positive and tangible change in the situation in Syria. We hold the Syrian regime led by Assad responsible for everything that is happening in Syria, from the deteriorating economic situation to the spread of violence and drugs, hindering the achievement of a political solution and sustainable peace. We also hold them responsible for the consequences of the war, such as the refugee issue, foreign intervention, and the spread of controlling forces. We call on Arab, regional, and international countries to continue supporting efforts to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Syria. We emphasise the principle of non-forced return of refugees under the unsafe conditions in Syria. We also stress the importance of achieving justice and holding all those responsible for human rights violations in Syria accountable.
We also emphasise the need to increase international pressure on the Syrian regime to adopt a tangible position that expresses its commitment to a political solution to the crisis. This solution should be based on United Nations resolutions, especially Security Council Resolution 2254, with an emphasis on the need to return to the negotiating table with the participation of all relevant parties. We urge for the expansion of the participation base in the political process to include all political and social currents in Syria. This process should be transparent and comprehensive, and women should be represented and actively participate in all aspects of the political, economic, and social process.
The Political Committee of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement