News / Middle East

Syrian VP's Remarks Suggest Regime in Dire Straits

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during interview with Russian Today, Damascus, Nov. 8, 2012.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during interview with Russian Today, Damascus, Nov. 8, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
Syria's Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa is drawing attention for becoming the first senior Syrian official to publicly acknowledge that his government cannot win its battle against a 21-month rebellion.
 
His recent remarks to a Lebanese newspaper appear to reflect a government in dire straits as an international ground swell grows for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad while rebel forces continue to report gains, especially around the capital.

But the troubled Assad government seems not ready to give up, analysts say, and is depending on allies to pursue a diplomatic blueprint that allows the president stay in power.
 
As Western powers and other nations supporting the Syrian opposition demand that Assad leave office, his allies, Iran and Hezbollah, have been promoting Assad-friendly peace initiatives.
 
Pro-Assad forces have been under increasing strain in recent weeks as rebels seize territory near central Damascus, his seat of power.
 
Recognizing realities
 
In the interview, published this week by the Beirut-based newspaper Al Akhbar, Sharaa said the Syrian crisis has hit a stalemate.
 
Sharaa said Syrian security forces cannot reach a "conclusive" result with the opposition. He also said rebels cannot overthrow the government militarily "unless they aim to pull [Syria] into chaos and unending violence."
 
Syrian Vice President Farouk Al-Sharaa, Damascus, August 26, 2012.Syrian Vice President Farouk Al-Sharaa, Damascus, August 26, 2012.
x
Syrian Vice President Farouk Al-Sharaa, Damascus, August 26, 2012.
Syrian Vice President Farouk Al-Sharaa, Damascus, August 26, 2012.
Sharaa, a Sunni, is not part of the inner circle of Assad, a minority Alawite who has been Syria's absolute ruler for 12 years.
 
But Sharaa's comments were republished in full by Syrian state news agency SANA, suggesting they likely had the president's approval.
 
Do Sharaa's remarks indicate that Assad has had a change of heart about how to end the fighting?
 
Tony Badran, a researcher at the New York-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, does not think so.
 
"If you parse through it, nothing in that interview actually is new in terms of policy," Badran said. "What it proposed was a dialogue with an unspecified counter-party, and it says nothing about the status of President Assad ... and the restructuring of [government] institutions and so on."
 
Restated proposals
 
Sharaa said any peace settlement must involve an internal Syrian dialogue that leads to the creation of a national unity government. He made no mention of rebel demands that Assad be removed from power before a transition begins.
 
Sharaa also said Syria's current leadership believes that it has the ability to achieve the change that Syrians want, provided that it has "new partners."
 
Other Syrian officials repeatedly have called on Syrian opposition groups to abandon violence and negotiate with the government.
 
Assad's only remaining regional allies have been promoting similar ideas in recent days. Badran said the Sharaa interview may have been timed to support those efforts.
 
Under a six-point plan announced by Iran's foreign ministry on Sunday, Syria would hold a national dialogue involving the Assad government as a first step toward elections.
 
"Iran's initiative does not stipulate anything about the departure of Assad," Badran said. "He stays in power, and most importantly for Iran, the strategic orientation of Syria [as an Iranian ally] remains the same."
 
The leader of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, gave a speech on Sunday, calling on Syrian rebels and foreign powers supporting them to stop rejecting dialogue with the Assad government.
 
"Those who believe that the armed opposition is capable of deciding the battle militarily are extremely mistaken," he said.
 
Badran said Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar's publication of the Sharaa interview was not a coincidence. "Ibrahim Amin, the chief editor who conducted this interview, is a Hezbollah guy," he said.
 
Al Akhbar describes itself as an organization that upholds "the highest standards of journalistic integrity while remaining true to the principles of anti-imperialist struggle."
 
Signs of desperation
 
Syrian opposition figures see another motive for the vice president's remarks — desperation.
 
Syrian rebels have made a series of military gains this month, moving into the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp on the southern outskirts of Damascus and seizing military bases around Aleppo.
 
The recently-formed opposition Syrian National Coalition also won recognition from more than 110 countries as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
 
Speaking to Al-Arabiyah television this week, Paris-based coalition member Mundhir Makhus said Sharaa's admission that government forces cannot win reflects what he called the "dazzling successes" of the rebels.
 
He also described Sharaa's peace proposals as too little, too late, saying they have been "overtaken" by developments that will "settle things."
 
Researcher Badran said he doubts the Sharaa remarks will have much effect.
 
"The rebels are not in any way interested in sitting down right now for an initiative that will just give the regime breathing space," he said.
 
Other analysts echo Western and NATO leaders in saying the end of Assad's rule is only a matter of time.
 
Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, recently said the government has been losing military control of the Damascus environs.
 
Khashan said Syrian troops loyal to the regime have become fatigued, and that many troops are "no longer interested in fighting" and that the unending combat has started "getting to them."

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
December 20, 2012 1:14 AM
As we all know, or should know, wars are very detrimental to all, all become loosers. Getting rid of a very nasty dictatorship, is usually not negotiable; at the same time lines of communication, must be established with the regime to reduce suffering, and to achieve the required end state as promptly as possible. Potentially "Sharaa's comments" may be a signal, that elements in the Syrian regime, other than Assad, want to start negotiating a transition. Such negotiations are critical to ensure an orderly, as well as possible, transition. Military ops can continue while discussions take place. Winter is rapidly approaching, the sooner the conflict ends, the fewer will be the innocent victims of the conflict. It is clear that the Syrian military are seeing the light; unfortunately the Iranian proxi Hezbollah, and its master are continuing to push for a fight to the end; which is not in the best interest of both Syrian parties to the conflict. Dialogue does not exclude the continuation of military operations, until both parties agree to a cesssation of hostilities. The doors to dialogue, between the Syrian parties to the conflict, need to be opened.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid