With the deadline for the Geneva II conference approaching, the United Nationshas declared there is firm evidence that Bashar Assad and many of his senior officials have carried out war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Raising the issue of charges may make the situation more complex and may also been a sign of a Yemeni-style solution to the crisis in Syria.
The first obstacle facing the conference is confirmation of the government in Damascus will go, not to hand over power, but to negotiate with an “acceptable” opposition, without clarifying on what it wants to negotiate.
The government has said that Assad will remain as President to lead the transitional phase and remain a candidate for the presidential election.
The opposition has announced that it will go to the conference to agree on the formation of a transitional government with full powers, only if Assad nor those close to him have any role in it.
So why did the U.N. raise the war crime accusation in the context of these deep differences?
There is no doubt that it is a direct response to the intransigence Assad and his commitment to his regime. He acts as though the civil and sectarian war did not happen, and as if more than 130 000 people haven’t died, as if hundreds of thousands were not injured, as if millions of Syrians didn’t flee their country, as if Syria isn’t divided practically into areas of war and power, and as if the Syrian economy is not on the edge of collapse as soon as Iranian and Russian support is ceased.
Assad acts as if he is infallible and blemishless. It is almost as though he believes himself when he talks about a “global war” against his regime.
As such, he seems less intelligent than the former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who despite his fierce resistance to the demands of his people tostep down, knew in his heart that it is difficult to remain as president after so much blood was shed. He didn’t reject a handover of power publicly, but accepted the interim solution, then kept trying to avoid signing the agreement until he secured firm guarantees that he and his closest aides would not be pursued for prosecution .
Massacres of the size happening in Syria didn’t happen in Yemen; Ali Saleh did not wage an open war on his opponents with all kinds of weapons and the situation never reached the point of being accused of war crimes, despite the fact that Yemeni human rights bodies have prepared a report in this regard and submitted it to the United Nations. Yemeni violence remained relative, so to speak, and Saleh showed that he thinks of Yemen as a whole and not in himself and his regime only.
The Gulf Initiative agreement came to emphasize reconciliation and to open a new page, which the national dialogue is currently trying to write with the participation of the National Congress, and Saleh’s party itself.
But Assad is not Yemeni, though he is a true tribal leader. Charging him under international law will mean he cannot remain president in the transitional phase.
Can the Russians, who are straining to renew their role as a second pole alongside the United States, ignore this fact and continue their refusal to admit Assad's responsibility in these crimes?
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer