The ten illusions of Bashar Assad

The Syrian people have sacrificed enough to accept to believe that their country cannot produce a real leader. That’s too demeaning for them.
Sunday 10/03/2019
Counting the odds. Syria’s President Bashar Assad speaks during an interview in Damascus. (SANA)
Counting the odds. Syria’s President Bashar Assad speaks during an interview in Damascus. (SANA)

Syrian President Bashar Assad is swimming in illusions filled with poisonous organisms that he himself created. He is so afraid to move even one little finger lest he gets stung by one of those creatures.

Assad’s first illusion is that he would win if he competes in an election. This dream is shown to be irrational by considering the numbers involved. The man risks getting stung from at least three sources in any elections.

First, the elections would be subject to strict international control. Second, he would have real competitors and not the usual straw candidates who dare not even vote for themselves.

And third, he would have to accept fair campaigning and that risks unveiling the truth about his regime’s Nero-like achievements. Three-quarters of Syrians have become direct victims of his government’s crimes. I do not know with what promises of further ruin he could tempt the remaining quarter to vote for him.

Assad’s second illusion is that he can maintain the nature of his regime. This regime has lost the respect of the Syrian people. This regime wants to remain the way it is even if it has to trample on everyone’s heads. In fact, this is what has happened.

The reform option is no longer on the table, because it is fundamentally not possible. Assad’s regime knows that any change on its part would unleash a wave of demands for a state of law and it can’t afford to let that happen because it is built on corruption and thrives only on acts of intimidation.

The third illusion is that Assad can regain control of Syria and sideline the foreign forces he had brought in to ensure his survival. The truth is that both Iran and Russia plan to stay in Syria. They seized control of the land and built interests they can no longer give up. Assad will not be able to govern except through them. The smallest sign of rebellion on his part would result in him getting stung to death.

Assad’s fourth illusion is that he can rebuild what has been destroyed. Neither Russia nor Iran has the financial capacity to finance Syria’s reconstruction, which has been estimated to cost at least $200 billion.

If other countries are willing to invest in Syria’s reconstruction, they’ll surely ask for guarantees. The first of these would be that there should be a government in Syria that is viable, not rotting.

The fifth illusion is that Assad can market his worn-out slogans about resistance and confrontation with Israel. This nonsense is laughing matter in Israel. What Israel is doing is striking at Assad’s forces and the militias of his allies and coordinating its operations with Assad’s major ally.

Assad must know his boundaries and they don’t extend beyond some of the rooms of his palace — not even the whole palace. Confined to these ridiculous limits, one can hardly boast and prance around as before.

The sixth illusion is that Assad can control the former Syria. The country has disintegrated into small cantons, each under temporary settlements and guarantees that Assad can do nothing about. These areas could rebel if they have the opportunity or the justification to do so.

Assad’s seventh illusion is that the return of some Arab embassies to Damascus is a sign of recognising that he has won. The reopening of the embassies represents an unquestionable endeavour to build ties with a future Syria and to lay the foundations for the resumption of the Arab character of Syria after it has been trampled by the Persian project.

Under his eighth illusion, Assad thinks he can stand as a full-fledged peer alongside the other Arab leaders. That can’t happen, given that he has hurt millions of people. There won’t be a comfortable seat for him in the Arab League and he won’t be able to speak to the others beyond the cold rules of the protocol.

His ninth illusion is that he can control at least his own canton but his scandalous defeat of his own people will stir deeply buried anger against him and his gang. Unless he can get Tehran or Moscow to guarantee him political asylum, he may not survive in his canton, which has suffered the same bitterness and sorrow that the rest of Syria suffered. As the atrocities committed by his regime become public, Assad’s canton will soon renounce him and kick him out.

The tenth and final illusion is in the meaningless slogans “Assad’s Syria” and “Assad forever.” The last thing that any sane person can imagine is that Syria will accept to be associated with these inane slogans. The Syrian people have sacrificed enough to accept to believe that their country cannot produce a real leader. That’s too demeaning for them.

Bashar Assad, plunged in the pool of his deadly illusions, is scared stiff of bumping against any of his creatures. The best he can hope for is a helicopter that will take him far, far away to an unknown location.