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Qais Ghanem, MD Headshot

At Last, Some Good News From Syria

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The announcement in Qatar on Sunday November 10, 2012 of the formation of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) with an elected president is an event of monumental importance, in my opinion. I was therefore somewhat puzzled by the ambivalent opinions expressed by some well known pundits as to the future of the national uprising in Syria. For, irrespective of how strongly we feel about the need to end the Assad dynasty, I believe that the end is very close, and one would venture to say that it is a matter of weeks, rather than months!

Why would a relative novice of Middle Eastern politics say that? First, the coming together of so many different factions under one umbrella, and one leadership, in a war torn country, where meetings had to be held abroad, in circumstances of fear and instability, and possible treachery, is in itself a miracle by Arab standards. The Yemenis, in contrast, are having great difficulty persuading their own disparate factions to come together under one roof in their own capital.

This could not have happened without the prestige, political power and persuasion of Qatar. It is ironic that a benevolent dictatorship, consisting of a one man show, has succeeded in consolidating the process of ending a malevolent dictatorship, which could be described as a one family show. Qatar, of course, has its own reasons for taking on this huge task, but the end result will enormously advance the process of democracy.

Second, the SNC has continued to insist that while foreign military equipment would be most welcome to redress the current marked imbalance in armaments between the rebels and the government, foreign boots on Syrian soil would not be welcome or tolerated. To the proud Syrian nation, this is crucially important. Third, is understanding the psychology of human survival. Although I am board certified in psychiatry and neurology, I have not studied this specific issue. But I did try to imagine myself as a member of the third tier of Assad's supporters.

In the second tier, let us assume, there are a dozen top brass military and security men. The first tier would be a handful of the closest family members. Someone in that circle of say one hundred, would hear about the formation of the SNC, and its recognition by the Arab League and Turkey, followed closely by the "west," and unless he is dumb or blindly dedicated to his president, would be making plans for future long term survival. Thus, he could only come to one conclusion, namely that he has one last chance to jump ship, just like rats have learnt to do for millennia.

But because the regime also knows that psychological fear, it would be watching its different circles of supporters even more carefully than before, and would make an example of the first one or two who attempt defection. It will be a calculated brutal punishment for letting the side down.

However this will be a fluid situation and the rebels will be making advances, and scoring successes with the help of newly acquired more sophisticated armaments. With each announced success, the temptation to save one's skin will become stronger and more urgent, and eventually irresistible. Elimination of so-called "traitors" by the regime will become more vicious.

At one point, that classic snowball phenomenon will commence, and within days rather than weeks the iron grip of ruling apparatus will unravel. President Assad who had vowed to either live or die in Syria will have his jet or jets on 24-hour stand-by at the military airport to whisk him and his family to Iran, and all that talk about dying on Syrian soil will suddenly evaporate.

There will be the usual misgivings and apprehensions about the chaos that is expected to follow the collapse of any of these very long Arab dictatorships, as was expressed in Libya and Egypt, but again none of that will materialize, and the Syrian nation as a whole will do quite well, with a little help from its friends. The New Year will dawn on a new very different Syria. Another Arab nation, shackled for decades, will have broken its chains and will head fairly rapidly towards democracy, albeit imperfect, and some measure of prosperity. The only question at that point will be "Who's next?"

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