Stephen J. Rubin
Last updated: 12 April, 2012

Comment: Assad’s Finest Hour

06:00 Thursday the 12th of April 2012 will forever be remembered as Bashar al-Assad’s finest hour.   No matter what happens in the coming years or even the coming months, this early morning hour will represent the Syrian ruler’s gold medal for survival, deceit and victory.

For all the arguing about whether or not Assad will ultimately adopt former United Nations chief Kofi Annan’s cease-fire plan and its eventual protocol to foster reforms in Syria, Assad will be able to thumb his nose at the international community, proving to everyone that he can match and even supersede the ruthlessness of his father Hafez in quelling decent without ever having to worry about the slightest bit of foreign military intervention.

With a lack of any meaningful international consensus on foreign intervention and the Russo-Chinese adamancy in giving Assad the benefit of the doubt to foster legitimate reforms – knowing all too well those reforms will probably never happen – it was obvious from the onset that the Syrian ruler would not only survive the turmoil but also have a free hand in massacring his own people.

The expansive contingent of opposition forces and their psychological will to keep fighting for Assad’s removal could only go so far.  At some point, unrelentingly austere force was going to dictate the outcome, as was the case over the past few months specifically.  

Without their own powerful military means to do so, it was evident that more than a year of bloodshed and the opposition’s courageous struggle would do nothing more than show Syria’s ruling elite what it already knew: that its power was secure, as long as foreign intervention remained sidelined due to the pure-power politics at play.

In this case, the only substantial foreign assistance came at the hands of Iran and its leaders’ adamant refusal in allowing its biggest ally in the region to crumble.

There is no doubt that arming countless numbers of unorganized opposition forces is never an easy decision to come by – especially when sectarian tensions and the threat of civil war are lurking in the shadows.  Assad knows this better than anyone.  After all, Iraq is in his backyard.

Just as his father before him, the younger Assad realizes that Syria poses one of the most complicated geopolitical enigmas to the East of the Mediterranean.

The mental confidence by a government in already recognizing the lack of intention by the international community to intervene militarily is more powerful than any tank or missile because it ensures that its own weapons can be used at will and in an unlimited capacity – like in a video game, where the player will always have another chance to destroy the “enemy”.

Even more troubling is the fact that the Syrian model will provide more buoyancy to other governments experiencing similar situations.  Undoubtedly, a country like Iran – just as it did after the 2009 contested-election – will look at what happened in Syria, or rather what didn’t happen, as it deals with its own future and the possibility of an internal struggle against its own demonic regime.

Assad’s boisterous confidence in knowing the challenges faced by the international community in agreeing upon any measurable action against his reign sets a daunting precedent for how the world deals with autocrats in volatile regions.

The struggle in Syria may not have come to a complete standstill, but for now, Bashar Assad is far from relinquishing the familial control that has ruled Syria for over forty years.

Even if he does eventually step down or somehow get forced out of power, Assad’s current victory and incessant deceit in claiming to implement significant reforms will always be seen as his shining moment in having completely taken advantage of the dirty, pure-power politics that have come to define international diplomacy.

Chalk one up for the community of despots.  

Stephen J. Rubin holds an M.A. from the Abba Eben School of Diplomacy at Tel Aviv University. He is a former combat soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces and an active reservist. His work frequently appears on Your Middle East, Ynetnews and the Boston Herald. You can follow him on Twitter @TheRealRubin