The Syrian Regime's Strategic Failure

Political analyst Abdullah Iskandar holds the Syrian regime responsible for the fact that the peaceful revolution in Syria has escalated into an armed conflict. He asserts that the regime's stubborn insistence on using military force to suppress opposition drove its opponents to arms

By Abdullah Iskandar

Oppression, detention, killing and the use of all the weapons at the disposal of the regular army have failed to get the people to stop their protests. And so, Syria is now heading straight towards a full and comprehensive civil war throughout the country.

At a time when political solutions are being obstructed by the usual factors and the only sound being heard is that of killing and armed confrontation, it has become clear that the policy of settling the conflict by military means still prevails and that there will be more killing and destruction in an attempt to stifle the demands raised by the opposition.

It has also become clear that the political opposition in Syria is not able to change the balance of power in a way that would limit Russia, China and Iran's support for the regime, thereby putting the regime's international and regional isolation beyond any doubt, in the hope that this would force the regime to reconsider its ongoing killing strategy. And so weapons remain the only language being used to solve this conflict, a fact that forced the Free Syrian Army to deploy arms. Once it did, it was able to steer armed confrontations to places where it could be steered, until such time as the conflict finally arrived in the capital.

This major development, which is demonstrated by the fact that the battles have now shifted to the heart and streets of Damascus, means among other things that the Free Syrian Army has gone from defending demonstrators who were being targeted by the regime's army and thugs to attacking the strongholds of the regime.

Body blow for the regime: a weekly meeting of top regime officials at Syria's national security building was the target of a bomb attack on Wednesday, 18 July; four members of President Assad's close security advisors, including the defence minister and his deputy and the head of intelligence, were killed in the blast


A deadly kind of parity

This strategic change of course was made possible by the increase in the strength of the Free Syrian Army and the wide-scale defection of high-ranking officers, whose knowledge and skill was put to use in confrontations with the regime. It was also made possible by the fact that rebels gained access to weapons – whether from the regime's warehouses or from abroad – in a way that has imposed some kind of parity in the direct confrontations.

In other words, everything points towards the continuation of a civil war – and all the human, political and economic misery such a war brings – for an indefinite period. This is a bleak outlook, but there is no going back, especially not now that the war has reached the streets of the capital and continues along all the fault lines running through the country.

If the impasse in the political situation continues as a result of Russia's determined support for the Syrian regime, it is not unlikely that the forces on both sides of the divide will in time congregate in specific parts of the country, which will undoubtedly cause rifts within the population, leading not only to widespread exhaustion and weariness but also to a kind of division on the battlefield – a division that will not be overcome in the foreseeable future.

The regime's determination to apply a military solution since the very first demonstrations took place has pushed the country down this road, and it is unlikely that the country's leaders will stop for even a moment to consider the catastrophic path down which they have led the country.

Unbroken resistance: despite the brutality of the regime's crackdown, demonstrators refuse to be cowed and continue to take to the streets. According to Abdullah Iskandar, the regime is responsible for the fact that the peaceful uprising has turned into an all-out armed conflict


The regime must go – now

Let us imagine for a moment that the fairytales the regime has been telling about the crisis, its causes and the best ways to handle it are right and true. Since the very start it has claimed that jihadist groups have been killing civilians and members of the military alike, and that it, the regime, was about to introduce reforms guaranteeing plurality and transparency.

Whether true of not, not only was this regime unable to do anything about these groups or to convince anyone of its intention to introduce reforms, it watched as the confrontations spread and escalated into a comprehensive civil war that has now reached the capital. Should this reality not force the regime to reassess the situation?

A regime such as this, which has failed to avert a dangerous security problem and is pushing the country towards the brink of sectarian division, should go now, not only because it is a dictatorial, oppressive and corrupt regime, but also because it has failed to ensure security and to maintain the unity of the state, which it has always claimed was being threatened by a conspiracy.

The Syrian regime should go now because it has even failed to implement its own strategy and to do the task it has claimed as its responsibility.

Abdullah Iskandar

© Al-Hayat 2012

Editor: Aingeal Flanagan/