Assad’s acceptance of the Arab League Initiative is but a ploy to help him stall for time, as his troops carry out their operations in Homs, Hama and Idlib, and the opposition continues to dance for rain, Manna and a clue.
Bashar Al-Assad’s acceptance of the Arab league Initiative means absolutely nothing. What matters is what is actually happening on the ground – there the devolution continues.
If the Arabs wanted to be honest brokers, their demand of ending the crackdown should have been followed by a demand for the imprisonment of Atef Najib, Maher Al-Assad, Assef Chawkat, Jameel Hassan, Ali Mamluke, Hafiz Makhlouf and all top military and security officials who were responsible for orchestrating it, and, thus, for all the killings that has taken place so far. If Assad wants immunity and a safe exit, a lot of people around him have to pay.
As for the dialog, it will have to take place between Baath leaders and other members of the ruling National Progressive Front who were not involved in this mayhem, and representatives of the opposition, who cannot be distilled down to the Syrian National Council no matter what Alchemy one deploys.
Meanwhile, law and order will have to be maintained by the second line of command in the military and security apparatuses. Their main challenge will be to control and disarm all the militias the Assads have created.
No, I don’t believe this scenario will be playing out anytime soon. Assad did not accept the Arab League Initiative because he is thinking of an exit strategy: he is simply experimenting with another stalling tactic. Indeed, his move is a page out of Yemeni President Ali Saleh’s book: a cynical attempt at stonewalling, talking about talking while militias and death squads take the battle on the ground to another level, plunging the country further and further into civil mayhem.
This is not my sentiments alone: there is a growing network inside the country made up of activists who are wary of any negotiations at this stage. They feel that this path favors the Assads who will be negotiating as a cohesive block, and who will be using the negotiations at a strategy for stonewalling, for fracturing the opposition even more, and for sapping the strength and the energy of the protest movement by bogging it down in a bottomless political quagmire. The issue is further complicated by the fact that the opposition, the dysfunctional MIA SNC included, has so far failed to produce the kind of leadership that inspires confidence when it comes to these situations. In other words, everyone knows that Assad negotiators will have any negotiating team fielded by the opposition for breakfast.
It’s for these kind of rational considerations, and not out of emotional impulse, as some might suggest, that the protesters and activists on the ground are refusing to enter into negotiations at this stage. They know that the respective positions are unequal and that the Assads have to be cut down to size before embarking on such path, hence, the early push for transitional justice. We have to bear in mind here that it’s not the Assads who are expected to deliver this justice, of course, but the international community, for “We won’t take part in any dialog while our killers go free.”
Indeed, it seems fitting that demonstrations on Wednesday were dedicated to raising the Independence Flag.