Assad will get the message when NATO meets in Turkey
It is clear that there is a varying sense of international alertness toward what is happening in Syria, particularly at the most recent Paris meeting (of the Friends of Syria).
The most distinctive thing about this meeting was that it was brief, not to mention the different language that was utilized in its closing statement, particularly its description of Annan’s mission as “the last chance,” however, the question that must be asked here is: Is this truly the last chance that will be granted to Assad?
The statement made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Paris was also important; she called for action to be taken, once more, at the UN Security Council, in order to obtain a Chapter Seven sanctions resolution regarding the situation in Syria, which authorizes foreign powers to use military force.
Of course, the US Secretary of State was realistic in her expectations that Moscow would utilize its veto in response to such a move, which would mean — according to Clinton — that we must activate the NATO mutual defense pact, due to the “outrageous” shelling by Syria on its northern border with Turkey. Clinton also announced that “Turkey is considering formally invoking Article Four of the North Atlantic Treaty.”
Such talk is very important; particularly as US military commanders issued a set of statements yesterday to the effect that all options are on the table. In addition to this, there were also Western statements — including by French President Nicolas Sarkozy — calling for the provision of humanitarian corridors in Syria. This means that there is now a strong chance for foreign intervention in Syria, particularly as Annan’s mission has practically failed, and its death needs to be officially announced. However, the question that must be asked here is: Does Assad understand and take all of these statements seriously and respond to diplomatic initiatives? The natural answer is no, and so long as there are no real steps on the ground, Assad will not abide by any initiative. What we must confirm is that so long that Assad does not hear the whirl of airplanes above Damascus; he will not take any serious steps to end the violence and crimes that are being committed against the people of Syria.
This is something that not just applies to Assad, but those around him as well, not to mention his security leadership; for so long as there is no real military movement to stop the Assad killing machine — as well as no humanitarian corridors or buffer zones in Syria — then it is only natural that we would not see any senior figures or ranks defecting from the Assad regime. The logical question that we have been asking ourselves over the past 12 months of the revolution is: Where can the officers or ministers who defect from the Assad regime — not to mention their families — go?
Libya had Benghazi, whilst during the current situation in Syria, we see Assad bombing Homs on a daily basis, despite Annan’s deadline, and so it is clear that Assad wants to destroy Homs to ensure that it does not become the capital of the revolution, or the Syrian Benghazi.
Therefore, despite the importance of everything that was said during the Paris meeting, Assad will not accede or respond to the dangerous position he finds himself in, or the seriousness of the international community, unless he sees the first NATO meeting take place in Turkey, entitled the Turkish — Syrian situation. At this point, Assad will be aware that the wheel of change has begun to turn, and that today is different than yesterday.
This is the only language that Assad understands!
The author is editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.