x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

The Assad regime blends paranoia with brutality, to the cost of Syrians

Al Hayat columnist Hassan Hyder looks into the paranoia shown by the Assad regime. Other writers: Tayeb Tizini (Al Ittihad) and Christian Merville (L'Orient Le Jour).

As Iraq commemorates the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, Lebanon is remembering its own long civil war. They are doing so while the conflict in Syria keeps unfolding, with its people stuck in a deadly spiral of violence.

In the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat, Hassan Hayder considers the Syrian regime’s stance over the past three years, during which it has survived in part by living off the distrust it sowed among the parties involved. This fits the image typical of authoritarian regimes, where “intelligence services have not even spared those loyal to the regime nor those close to it, especially in light of divisions it currently sustains”, he wrote. Bashar Al Assad’s growing suspicion seems to engulf anyone and everyone.

Haidar stressed that such paranoia also seems to have affected his foreign alliances.

“It affects his external allies, who have gone out of their way to defend Bashar Al Assad’s rule, such as Iran, Hizbollah and an Iraqi militia, Abu Al Fadel Abbas Brigade, who have been defending the governor of Damascus and his ‘achievements’ that have led to the demise of 150,000 Syrians until now,” he observed.

Matters of discord have come to light since Damascus called upon its allies for support on the battlefield. This happened when Syrian authorities established certain procedures to prevent Hizbollah’s TV channel and its affiliate, Al Mayadeen, from live coverage of developments. They aired interviews with Hizbollah fighters who claimed the main role in progress achieved, with the footage not showing any soldier of the regime, he explained.

“After each battle, Hizbollah is now forced to immediately hand the area over to Al Assad’s soldiers so they may be filmed by the regime’s television channel, brandishing pictures of their President,” he wrote.

It is the nature of the Syrian regime that prevents it from trusting anyone outside its immediate circle, even leading it to doubt some of its closest allies, especially in times of war, Hayder concluded.

In the meantime, the number of registered Syrian refugees keeps growing and recently reached over 2.6 million in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Lebanon alone has one million.

A few weeks back, satellite channels mentioned that 65 per cent of Syrian refugees fear they are not going to see their country again. Tayeb Tizini, columnist in Al Ittihad, the Arabic language sister newspaper to The National, described this as a tragic statement.

“Leaving one’s home, city and country of one’s own accord may be seen as positive when it springs from one’s own desire and motivation,” he wrote. However those forced to flee in risky conditions end up wracked with fear and humiliation while seeking refuge from monstrous practices.

Violence is spread further by militiamen who break into homes, subdue the occupants, steal valuables and then burn it down.

“Barrel bombs, rockets, starving people to death and burning them down – to name just a few of these practices – have led the Syrians to seek refuge in neighbouring countries, where they still are at risk of famine and illness,” added Tizini.

Civil wars are like icebergs and we see only their tips, columnist Christian Merville observed in the Lebanese French-language daily L’Orient Le Jour, with 90 per cent remaining out of sight.

While some neighbouring countries welcome refugees, others send financial help and humanitarian support.

“Pakistan has opted for silence and denial, as local and foreign media mention cases where Jihadists from Al Qaeda and Taliban are sent to Syria,” wrote Merville. Pakistan denied these allegations, and implied it was – directly or indirectly – sending arms to the rebels.

Merville concluded by providing food for thought in the form of a quote from 1662 by Pierre Corneille: “Have you forgotten this great maxim: civil war is the reign of crime.”

In Syria, the “cold” war is still burning hot.

Compiled by Carla Mirza