Dec 29 2012
By Fatih Abdulsalam
Azzaman, December 29, 2012
When President Bashar Assad assumed power in 2000 following the death of his father, many Syrians entertained high hopes that he will lead them on a path of reform.
True, the young Assad had no political or diplomatic skills. His only advantage was being the son of the late President Hafez Assad.
There were many optimists in Syria when Bashar Assad took over. They thought he would defect the ranks of the old guard who surrounded his father and usher in a new era.
He bequeathed a Syria which was in the throes of serious local, regional and international problems.
To rid the system of the heavy hand of the old guard was not an easy matter, but the young President, who was educated in the West, could have ushered in a new epoch of reform and sidelined all elements hindering his path to transform Syria into a democratic state.
During his first two years in power, the word ‘reform’ was everywhere, but the Syrians reaped nothing in reality.
On the contrary, instead of turning against the old guard, the president strengthened his and his father’s lieutenants’ hold on power.
In fact the first Arab Spring had started in Syria with the coming of the young president. But unfortunately, the events called ‘Damascus Spring’ and the reform-minded Syrian nationals behind them were crushed in the bud.
The young Assad’s flaws became evident in every file he dealt with. In Lebanon, he continued his father’s rash policies and got mired there until he was forced out by a Security Council resolution in the wake of the Assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri.
He did not utilize his withdrawal from Lebanon to turn his attention to his country’s domestic issues and start in earnest the overdue reform.
When the first test came in the Syrian city of Daraa, the first to peacefully rise against his rule, Assad blundered once again.
Instead of starting reform immediately and opening up to his opponents, Assad clung tenaciously to the regime old guard, who thought force would calm down the demonstrators.
Had Assad listened carefully to the demands of his own people for reform and democracy right from the very beginning, he could have certainly avoided his country the untold suffering and possible implosion of a nation.
Had Assad left the ranks of the regime’s old guard and joined his own people, he would have probably emerged as reformist leader with the ability to transform his country without bloodshed.
But so much blood has already been shed; and so much destruction. Syria is now Middle East’s worst example of country ruined by internal strife.
The one to blame is the young president because he refused to dump the old guard.
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