Doesn’t Assad have the right to defend Syria?

20th August 2012

So the new UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi is asked the obvious and obviously dumb question by the bunch of lurking hacks looking for a headline and to hell with the sensitivities of the position in Syria. They bawl out: did he think Bashar al-Assad must resign?

You can just imagine it? The headlines in every country in world.  New Peace Maker says Assad Must Go. In other words, end of peace mission.

It doesn’t stand much chance anyway. Peace deals don’t get done in public. Which is why the Chinese have the best chance of finding some face-saver, although that’s as slim as a cat-walker.

What does the excellent Mr Brahimi say? He says “I am a mediator.  I haven’t joined the Syrian party.  I am a mediator and a mediator has to speak to anybody and everybody without influence or interest.”

So first he has to go the UN in Washington and then to Cairo to talk to the Arab League. He’ll then know for sure his Terms of Reference.  He may also get to know what the Chinese are doing, although that’s really unlikely at this stage.  Of course, the hacking tribes of the world, especially the lay-abouts at the UN in New York simply re-write what the UN press office hands out and have never been known to get an inside line on the truth.  What they want is for the new man to repeat what the departing envoy, Kofi Annan said.  Having failed to get a deal (hardly his fault) he said that Assad must go.

Brahimi is smarter than that.  He says, I’ve just got the job, let me go and listen, then I can tell you if anything stands a chance of bringing about the end to the Syrian civil war.

But for one moment, let’s turn this whole thing on its head. Let’s ask the question that none of the UN correspondents ask and none of the major political players at the UN would dare ask: why should Assad go?  It’s his country isn’t it? A bunch of blood-thirsty guys with the help of ooutside agencies and governments are trying to bring about the overthrow of Assad’s lot.

Let’s make it clear that we think Assad, his brother Maher and maybe every general still in town are a bunch of evil dictators. But that still does not mean that the so-called West plus some of the Gulf States has logic on their side when they demand Assad’s head on a political platter.

Northern Ireland was no where on a related stage, but this was the scenario from 1969: an armed bunch of thugs called the Provisional Irish Republican Army and its variants bombed and shot their way into an uncompromising uprising against the civil power, the British Government.  The British Government sent troops to reinforce the standing garrison and for thirty years fought to defend Northern Ireland against the rebels/terrorists.

In Syria, an armed bunch of thugs and their variants are bombing and shooting their way into an uncompromising uprising against the civil power. The Syrian government has deployed its troops to defend the Assad regime and Syria against the rebels/terrorists.

We may not like the Assads, but they are governing – to whatever way and reason – the state of Syria.  If the UK is allowed to defend its rukle in Northern Ireland, why isn’t Assad allowed to defend his hold over Syria.

Anyone who talks about the Free Syrians as part of a democratic uprising, then let them talk again. The Syrian National Council says Brahimi’s refusal at this stage to call for the departure of Assad shows “disregard for the blood of the Syrian people and their right to self-determination.”

That statement is, of course, utter rubbish. Brahimi doesn’t reckon he much of a chance of coming to any peace deal.  But he’s not going to reduce those chances by making provocative statements.  The Syrian National Council know this.  But the SNC, like most of the opposition do not really offer peace and wonder for the people of Syria who must know that. You can smell the twitch of vengeance as far away as this capital.

So the whole thing is the handbasket of hell’s journey.  But if you want to get near to understanding how to stop the civil war, then remember that however sick-making it may be, Assad is President and by any norm should be allowed to defend his state – for whatever reason.  The Saudi Arabis and the Qataris openly supporting the rebels, would do exactly the same. No government, especially not dictatorships like the Syrians and the Saudis have, know that and would have troops out on the streets at the first hint of uprising.

The Assads are nasty bastards. But look around the Middle East and especially the Gulf and you’ll know there are a lot of them in that region who would do exactly what the Assads are doing.

We may not support Syria’s right to put down a rebellion, but until we understand that they do in a cynical manner, have that right then we’ll not be on the right wavelength to get a peace deal.  Brahimi knows that.  Give him space.

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