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Bashar al-Assad’s 10-year challenge

Bashar al-Assad’s 10-year challenge

2019/01/22 | 22:05

(Hatha al-Youm | Iraq News)-











Makram Rabah







Over the past few weeks, social media has been taken over by

the 10-Year Challenge: the latest online fad where users post two pictures

themselves 10 years apart, allowing them to reminisce and engage with their

friends and family. This trivial internet craze led me to ponder what Bashar

al-Assad would post on his social media account if he had the chance, and how

this would be reflective of his career and future aspirations.The Arab Economic Summit, taking place in Lebanon over the

weekend, is in its own right an Assad 10-Year Challenge as his were desperately

scrambling to turn this venue into an occasion to normalize Syria’s relations

with its Arab neighbors. The zeal to reinstate Syria’s membership in the Arab

League, according to Assad’s supporters, would be the last act in securing

Iran’s supposed victory in the region. Ultimately, Assad wishes to show both

his supporters as well as his opponents that he, and equally his regime, are

older yet stronger having endured eight years of gruesome war yet survived.This normalization blitz led by Assad’s Lebanese allies,

mainly Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri and Lebanon’s Foreign Minister and

President Michel Aoun’s son-in-law Gebran Bassil, clearly demonstrates how

Assad and his Iranian associates have no real understanding of the steps needed

to achieve proper normalization. In Assad’s dictionary, normalization simply

means continuing to play both sides of the political spectrum and promising the

Arab Gulf countries to abandon his “sacred alliance” with Iran in exchange for

the billions needed to rebuild Syria and its razed infrastructure.Growing Iranian influenceAssad simply misconstrued some of the Arab countries’

initiatives, such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, to meet him half way

by reopening their embassies in Damascus. Instead of reciprocating with an act

of good faith, Assad exerted more pressure on the Lebanese state by derailing

the formation of the next government by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri,

linking the formation with Hariri’s acceptance to invite him to the Beirut

summit.Such actions prove that any bid to normalize relations with

the Assad regime will simply face the same fate as its many earlier attempts.One ought not forget that the late Saudi King Abdullah made

the trip to Damascus in October 2009 and later chaperoned Assad to Beirut in

hopes of containing Iran’s growing influence in the area and to shield the

Lebanese government from Hezbollah’s complete take-over. Ten years have passed

since King Abdullah’s wishful attempt to skew Assad from his joint venture with

the Iranian regime, an attempt that led Assad to cooperate further with Tehran

and to allow it more access to both Lebanon and Syria.The repercussions of empowering Assad at this particular

moment in time, by re-establishing diplomatic relations or even readmitting him

to the Arab League will only strengthen Iran and come at the expense of

Lebanon, Iraq as well as Yemen; places which the Iranian Revolutionary Guards

have won over with blood and sweat, and will simply not forgo easily.In 1990, Hafez al-Assad was handed Lebanon in exchange for

his participation in the first Gulf War to liberate Kuwait, a grant that his

son Bashar lost after he failed to check Iran’s growing infiltration of the

region. Bashar simply can no longer deliver as a peddler of security and

stability like his equally ruthless father did; as it stands Assad is merely a

finger-puppet as well as a victim of Iran’s ambitious expansion in the Levant.The challenge to exit the current state of affairs in the

next decade or so is for the future pictures not to include the likes of Assad,

nor should one be fooled that a simple Photoshop or political whitewashing can

hide the fact that Assad and his Iranian patrons are the problem and never the

solution.











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