Monday, 10 June 2019
Michel Duclos: "For Al-Assad, everything is allowed, there is no limit to inhumanity"
'Former ambassador of France in Syria, Michel Duclos has just published a book on the diplomatic impasse in Syria. He explains why Bashar al-Assad survived eight years of war. In addition to the US disengagement and the return of Russia in the regional game, it points the inner springs of a scheme ready for anything.
"It is above all the nature of the system that explains the Syrian tragedy. It is impressive to see that in the series of Arab Spring, Bashar al-Assad is the only tyrant who held. It must be asked why. One of the answers is what I call Ottoman demography, the sociological division of Syria between different denominations, where the Alawite minority holds the upper hand with other minorities, especially Christian. The other element is the very particular nature of this minority, clan-dominated régime, which has held its own community and the rest of the population hostage. A régime that obeys a code, a legacy of the history of an oppressed Alawite minority who must defend himself, and who wants to take revenge. This legacy was transformed into a method of power by the Assad clan who seized the Baath party, the army, and finally the country. This method of power prepares the people who practice it to hold whatever the circumstances, because they have no way out. Every day is a victory. At the same time, everything is allowed, there is no limit to inhumanity. It is the mark of this régime with which it is illusory to believe that one can make accommodations.
For the Americans, Syria does not exist as an active country, it is a strategic object. The tragedy of the Syrian uprising is that it came as the United States of Barack Obama was in the process of disengaging from the Middle East. All of this has been accentuated by Obama's desire to reach an agreement with Iran on the nuclear issue. The international panorama was limited for the United States, which did not want to interfere with the Syrian question, while the Russians were in the process of expansion and return in the region.
On the Iranian side, the Syrian uprising was a strategic issue from the beginning, even if, at the beginning, the president of the time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wanted to support the uprising. It was the Revolutionary Guards who convinced Ali Khamenei to support Bashar al-Assad, that it was a strategic issue. It is therefore the demands of supporters of Iranian expansionism that have prevailed.
The interests of Europeans are not entirely consistent with those of the Americans. The United States has a specific goal that is to contain the Iranian influence. And even if Trump sometimes gives the impression of wanting to withdraw, there is still a strategic logic to keep a foot in Syria. For Europeans, the effects of terrorism and immigration make them uninterested. At the crossroads of the two, there is Turkey. So, for all Westerners, there are still reasons for trying to guide things. And then there is the metapolitical impact, Syria is an incubator of the new authoritarian régimes. All humanitarian norms and laws of war that we had somehow managed to get into the international rule at the end of the XX th century were destroyed. All this has disappeared. If this continues, as the authoritarians take power everywhere, whenever there will be a revolt, the récipe of Al-Assad will appear as accessible since Westerners do not react.
Yes, the régime of Al-Assad has been victorious, but he is in trouble with his own base because of American sanctions and the choking of the economy. Moreover, it is dependent on an international game where the Russians can betray it, either with the Turks, with the Israelis, or with both at the same time. It is finally dependent on the alliance with the Iranians that leads to the curse of the Americans. He won, but he still has a lot of obstacles to overcome. Westerners can exploit this rottenness. Everyone says that the only bridge is Russia, we must try, tirelessly repeat to the Russians that we are ready to work with them on an exit solution but on our terms, not theirs." '