By: Abdullah Iskandar
The Syrian regime believes it has overcome the worst stage and has started the journey towards regaining its previous status, both politically and militarily. The worst that was overcome by the regime was that it found itself forced – at a certain stage of the domestic battle – to fully align behind the Russian-China axis in the face of the West and especially the United States. This happened at a time when it was also obligated to resort to Hezbollah's military forces and to Iranian expertise in multiple fields, ones which directly participated in the battles alongside it. The facts of this stage constituted a great shift away from the strategy drawn up by the late President Hafez al-Assad and aimed to render his regime an international and regional necessity. Indeed, Hafez made his regime a point of intersection and convergence between the East and the West during and after the Cold War, as well as a regional point of intersection, especially at the level of its relationship with Saudi Arabia and Egypt on one hand, and Iran under Al-Khomeini on the other.
When this equation was shaken by the full bias of Bashar al-Assad's regime in favor of Iran and its surrender of its international diplomacy to Moscow, the regime became threatened by a counter effort to bring Syria back to the balance point and started to face the possibilities of a Western military intervention, strengthened by its use of chemical weapons against its citizens.
The other worst case scenario overcome by the regime is that it is no longer required to account for its use of WMDs against civilians through a clear and blatant violation of all international laws and human and ethical considerations.
In addition, the Russian-American agreement over the dismantlement of the Syrian chemical arsenal rehabilitated the regime and allowed it to regain its position as a strategic point of intersection between the two camps, each of which achieved its purpose and interests. Consequently, the regime was the object of raves and praise for having cooperated in the implementation of the agreement, and became a key component of whichever political solution as revealed by the roadmap leading towards the Geneva 2 conference.
Hence, the regime went from being accused of having committed a crime against humanity – and before and after that of killing tens of thousands of people, destroying cities and towns and displacing hundreds of thousands – to being an element of stability in the international equation, and soon maybe in the regional one. The regime has thus started to regain its previous task as a point of intersection for international strategic interests. And after it relinquishes its chemical arsenal, i.e. the strategic element of deterrence in the face of Israel, this return will be enhanced this time around by a declaration of intentions and practical steps preserving Israeli supremacy.
With the beginning of the work to implement the chemical agreement, the Syrian regime launched a massive campaign to stress its main theory in regard to the conflict, i.e. that it is being subjected to a terrorist-Takfiri conspiracy and not a protest action and popular demands for reform and change. This campaign was widely echoed, not only in the media outlets supporting the Syrian-Iranian axis, but also in international papers, due to a well-conceived promotional operation. And it is no coincidence that all of a sudden, the hegemony of extremist and Takfiri groups emerged on the field, thus achieving military progress at the expense of the Free Army, killing its officers and soldiers and securing political advancement at the expense of the civil and pluralistic political discourse, in a way that offered a favor to the regime and more instigation material for it to use.
The Syrian regime knows that war on terrorism means to the United States under President Barack Obama's administration. It also knows what war against the Takfiris means to Russia under Vladimir Putin. The first limited the entire American policy in the Islamic region to the pursuit of the elements of Al-Qaeda and its offshoots, as an alternative for the policy of military and political withdrawal from it. As for the second, he built his entire glory as a leader on the violent pursuit of extremist Islamic movements inside the Russian Federation, especially in Chechnya. In that sense, the Syrian regime is currently trying to turn itself into an important element in the American-Russian axis and the war on terrorism and the Takfiris.
Once again, the regime in Damascus was able to benefit from the international equation, by setting the pace of its action to the beat of that action and placing itself in its context.
The Syrian regime has overcome the worst in this round of the confrontation, thus inaugurating a new stage of the conflict. And it is not yet clear to which extent the Syrian opposition heeded the lessons of this round to restore consideration to the agenda of the protest action instead of the current state of loss.