The embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was not destined for leadership greatness, global statesmanship or great political character from birth! Born on the 11th September 1965 Assad graduated from the medical school of the University of Damascus in 1988 and started to work as a doctor in the Syrian Army under his late father. Four years later however he attended post-graduate studies at the Western Eye Hospital in London, the UK, specializing in ophthalmology. His late father was known to have been secretly grooming Bashar’s elder brother Bassel al-Assad as the future President. And when the unexpected happened with the untimely death in an auto crash of Bassel Bashar was recalled in 1994 to the Syrian army as the undisputed new heir-apparent.
Through an unopposed referendum in 2000 President Assad was chosen to succeed his father and since then he had organized two sham presidential ‘polls’ in which he had been returned to power unopposed. You can call his rise to power after his father’s death as something similar to what is happening in any monarchy in the wider world. And back home in Africa we have seen this kind of succession manifesting themselves even under a ‘normal’ civilian dictatorships: Joseph Kabila taking over from his late father, Laurent, when the fat rebel leader who gained power after deposing the late kleptocrat Mobutu Sese-Seko in Congo-Kinshasa was assassinated and Faure Gnassingbe succeeding his father, Eyadema, after the despot kicked the bucket in early 2005.
The late Assad ran Syria as a glorified ‘King’ for more than three decades. And belonging to a minority called Alawites — a small, historically-beleaguered ethnic group — Assad used both intimidation and ruthlessness to maintain his iron-grip on power with the majority Sunnis kept at bay. Today those waging war of regime change in furtherance of the Arab Spring are known to be mainly the Sunnis who want to control their destinies after decades of political oppression by the Assads.
Damascus, the sprawling capital city of Syria is more than a thousand years old! The old city is comparable only to Jerusalem in Israel, Alexandria in Egypt and Thessalonica in Greece in terms of ancient and modern survival of cities dating back to millenia BC. It remains one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and a major cultural and religious center. Damas is synonymous with biblical references before, during and after the death and crucifixion of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Damascus notably was the ‘sin’ city where many ancient followers of Christ were prosecuted and persecuted. Notably, the persecutor-in-chief of Christians, Saul, was heading towards the city to carry out massacre of more Christians when the Almighty Jehovah intervened gloriously blinding him and consequently miraculously turning him away from sin and transforming him into a new being with a new name: Apostle Paul! That biblically-documented encounter with a lightening rod, the resurrected Christ, was a striking supernatural demonstration of divine power, one from which a quote was attributed to Jehovah Himself. The Maker of man was quoted as having proclaimed: “Saul! Saul!! Why are you kicking against the prick?!”
Syria, as a country, is hugely important and influential in both the Arab world and the Middle East. Damascus is known to be anti-Israel sponsoring terrorists who undermined the internal security of the Jewish state, from Lebanon-based Hizbollah to the Palestine-based Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The provocation got to a stage where one Israeli hawkish Prime Minister at a time sternly warned the current Syrian leader that in the event of a full-blown war he would not only lose the war within intervening minutes he would also be forced out of power and constrained to flee into exile against his wish! Apart from Syria another enemy of the Jewish state happens to be Iran.
Archaeologists of repute have demonstrated incontrovertibly that civilization in Syria was one of the most ancient on earth. The old country has passed through many empires over time from the Persians to the Macedonians, from the Romans to the Byzantines. From the Mongols to the Ottomans. It is a country with rich history indeed: a past fraught with occupation by foreign forces and the present looking very bleak with a creeping civil war in the horizon!
However the modern Syria as we know it today could be said to have been established under the French Mandate in 1941, and when the French beat a negociated retreat the country was thrown into political instability during the 1950s and 60s leading to the Baath Arab nationalist party eventually ascending to power in the bloody coup d’etat of 1963. In another coup of 1970, Hafez al-Assad took power within the Baath party. Syria was ruled autocratically by Assad from 1970 to the year 2000 when he succumbed to death. And soon after his demise he was succeeded by his son Bashar al-Assad.
The Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and now Syria has consumed about three sitting dictators. In Tunisia where it all began ex-President Ben Ali had no option left but to flee for his dear life after the revolution reached a critical stage of non-return. Today Tunisia is making some progress with new leaders in power. The Arab Spring revolution soon crossed over to Cairo Egypt where ex-dictator Hosni Mubarak was holding sway for decades. Today, after being swept from power, he stands condemned and in prison as his health deteriorates and the protesters calling for his execution! Just yesterday a new President, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, was named as the winner of the presidential election.
In Libya the late tyrant Muammar Ghaddafi was defiant to the last minute. He was caught by the rebels inside a waste pipe and butchered to death after employing whatever was left of his 42-year reign of terror to keep himself and his family in power. However in his case the United States and France (and NATO) played key roles in dismantling the Ghaddafi weapons of mass destruction. Bombing his forces and command and control centers out of effectiveness the oppressed Libyans soon found their courage and voices as they battled the remnants of the tyranny conquering Tripoli after weeks and months of protracted battles. Today in spite of security lapses here and there Libya is becoming a democratic entity ruled by democrats!
Against this background the disgusting daily images of terror, regime-sponsored violence, unconscionable level of brutality going on in Damascus and other Syrian cities has provoked global condemnations and sanctions against the Assad regime with the Obama administration maintaining rigidly that regime change was inevitable. Without any iota of doubt Assad is running a government of brutality and duplicity. Syria will not, cannot be peaceful, stable or certainly democratic until Assad goes.
The appalling use of excessive force to put down a civil revolt cannot work in the long run. Russia and China, which wield vetoes in the U.N. Security Council have blocked any prospects of tougher action against Assad. Without their consent in the UN Security Council nothing appears to suggest that anything will be done outside the UN mandate or resolution authorizing the use of force against the murderous regime in Damascus. Russia has been the staunchest backer of Assad and his military crackdown against militants and protesters in Syria, including supplying arms to the Syrian government.
While President Putin and his government in Moscow insist on “political dialogue” for the resolution of a protracted crisis cum sectarian conflict President Obama has said times without number that Assad has lost all legitimacy insisting logically that it was practically impossible to conceive of any solution to the violence in Syria that leaves him in power. The ignoble role being played by Russia and China while openly supporting the failed Kofi Annan’s diplomatic efforts rankles millions of democrats worldwide who daily express social solid
arity to the Syrian democratic cause.
The positive role being played by Turkey coupled with the principal roles of the US, France, UK and the Arab League and nations like Saudi Arabia and Quatar must be recognised here and lauded. The Russian continuing provision of armaments and weapons to the embattled regime must be condemned in strongest terms. Why is Russia and China not playing progressive politics with the outside democratic world? It could be that their material interest(s) far outwiegh the moral need to be fair and just in a complex world. Again, given the kind of ‘soft dictatorships’ the two nations run at home it is easy to understand their reticence and negativism whenever democracy is challenged anywhere in the world.
Presidents Vladmir Putin and Hu Jintao must bear certain responsibility for what is the gory state of Syria today. The blood of thousands of innocent Syrians bombed and killed in cold-blood is crying for vengeance! And vengeance they must get in the fullest of time.
There is an emergency in Syria and the Assad killing machine assaulting decency and democracy must be disabled much like the global coalition successfully demobilized the killing machine of the late dictator Muammar Ghaddafi in Libya. Bashar al-Assad’s regime has become a killing machine, well-oiled to decimate a population seeking for a new dawn. The deteriorating security situation on the ground calls for a co-ordinated response by a global coalition like the one used in stopping the Ghaddafi ticking ‘bomb’ in Libya.
The global concerted military intervention in Syria is long overdue! And the democratic powers in the Western world led by the United States cannot continue watching and applying diplomacy when Assad has evidently become mad and uncontrollable. Whilst the opinions of Russia and China will always count we cannot afford to wait on them or their approval before something drastic a measure is done to halt the Assad madness in Damascus. And if the multi-national military intervention is ruled out (due mainly to strategic and diplomatic encumberances) then the alternative lies in supplying weapons and other armaments to the Free Syrian Army to defend the masses and wage war against the Assad ruthless forces.
Assad’s bloody 15-month crackdown on the local opposition which the outside observers put the conservative death toll at more than 15,000 and still counting must be halted. But the uprising is not abating; rather, Syrians are more determined as more women, children and demonstrators struggling to end the Assad sad era in their collective lives are daily killed in crude ways. From all indications, it is clear that Assad, blinded by ego and power, is determined to destroy his late father’s legacy; what his late father laboured to construct in decades while in power lie in ruins. When the boom of guns, bombs and artillery fire die down historians will remember Assad as that dictator who brought down upon himself the edifice built by his late father!
The approaching apocalypse in Damascus must sweep Assad from power for Syrians to re-discover their humanities again. And before that imminent armaggedon descends on the forces of evil led by Assad (putting defenseless civilians to grief) we hereby urge the brave Syrians demonstrating against odds to keep the hope alive and keep the democratic flame burning! Freedom will be their reward soon enough!! A-luta Continua!!!