Syria has long lost its sovereignty to occupying powers

Damascus’s rejection of what the five occupying powers are doing is like a dwarf resenting assault by a giant that has him in a chokehold.

Saturday 17/08/2019
A Russian soldier places the national flag at the Abu Duhur crossing on the eastern edge of Idlib. (AFP)
Many flags. A Russian soldier places the national flag at the Abu Duhur crossing on the eastern edge of Idlib. (AFP)

Turkey and the United States have agreed on a secure zone project in northern Syria but, before it became a reality, Damascus jumped to condemn and reject it. Damascus doesn’t even know the point behind the project and it makes one wonder when Bashar Assad’s regime will wake up from the illusion of sovereignty while it is living under the flags of five countries that have occupied Syria for years.

The Damascus government does not dare reveal the name and position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials to whom angry statements of rejection could be attributed but that does not appear strange considering that the head of the regime was willing to sit in on an official meeting with the Iranian leader without having his country’s flag present in the meeting hall and rushes off to Moscow whenever Russian President Vladimir Putin calls.

What does it mean that Damascus rejects the Turkish-US plans in northern Syria? Does Damascus have the power to reject anything, except perhaps to issue anonymous statements?

When Damascus refused to listen to the demands of the revolution to change the political situation — not the president — during the peaceful beginnings of the 2011 revolution, the “state” lost its right to reject anything just as Assad has lost his right to be president.

Every time Damascus declares its refusal, something happens and the situation worsens for Syrians, so much so that any official refusal can be taken as a sign that one more calamity is going to befall the country.

When the “Syrian state” rejected the entry of the Turkish Army in Syrian land west of the Euphrates, Turkey created its own governorate there. The same state rejected the US presence in the north and the United States occupied one-third of Syrian territory.

The Syrian state vehemently condemned and rejected Israeli military intervention, so Tel Aviv sent its warplanes on almost weekly strikes in Syrian territory. Finally, the Syrian state rejected what it called Arab intervention in its internal affairs but surrendered the keys to Damascus to the Iranians and the country’s coasts to the Russians.

The Syrian state must realise that it no longer has the right to refuse or reject anything related to its foreign affairs or even to its internal affairs. The only rejection that Assad continues to exercise without fear of Iran or Russia is the rejection of the voices opposed to him and his regime. He convenes treason trials in absentia for opposition figures living outside Syria and persecutes the opposition inside Syria for lowering the country’s morale.

An accurate diagnosis of the condition of the Syrian state is that the position of president is an honorary one and that the zones of the regime are divided between two deep states, one working for Iran and the other working for Russia.

For the exercise of their power internally and externally, these two states rely on Popular Mobilisation Forces’ militias, bought political and religious figures and on military leaders in the ranks of the army, intelligence services and even in the presidential palace.

Under the two deep states controlling Syria, Damascus’s refusal has turned into a sort of a small fig leaf behind which the regime hides or just an echo of a Russian or Iranian position that the Syrian state is forced to agree with. This is not an exaggeration of the diagnosis.

In truth, the Syrian regime lost control of its sovereignty the minute Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah’s militias stepped onto Syrian territory, allegedly to fight terrorism, and began killing Syrian citizens.

Damascus’s rejection of what the five occupying powers are doing is like a dwarf resenting assault by a giant that has him in a chokehold. Damascus has nothing but patience to resort to, hoping that a miracle might bring back the old glory days to Assad, the days when he used to be Syria’s first and ultimate decision maker.

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