A premature declaration of victory in Syria

Now, pundits loyal to President Bashar Assad, tell us that his regime won the civil war and that Lebanese must adapt to that "reality".
by Bassem Ajami

27 August 2018 | 14:41

Source: by Annahar

  • by Bassem Ajami
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 27 August 2018 | 14:41

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hand with Syrian President Bashar Assad in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, November 20, 2017. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Kremlin via AP)

BEIRUT: Radical regimes in the Arab world have devised a peculiar measure for calculating the results of military confrontations, which can be illustrated using three examples.

Immediately following the 1967 war with Israel, Syria's Minister of Information proudly declared that his country had emerged victorious in the six-day war. When asked how by bewildered foreign journalists given the loss of the Golan Heights, he explained that Israel's real aim was to topple the Damascus regime. And since the regime did not fall... Syria won.

Years later, in 1984, a Western journalist was interviewing Yasser Arafat in Tunisia. She asked him about his feelings after being evicted from Lebanon by Israel two years earlier. Aeafat insisted that he actually won the 1982 war. Asked how, since he was sitting thousands of miles from his previous headquarters in Beirut, he quickly answered: "where is [Menahim] Begin? Where is [Ariel] Sharon?" Both men had been driven out of office, while he, Arafat, remained the head of the PLO. Therefore, according to his logic, he actually won the war against Israel.

A decade later, in Iraq, President Saddam Hussein declared victory in Baghdad after his troops had been evicted from Kuwait by the U.S led international coalition, claiming victory in the "mother of all battles" for surviving the world's onslaught on his regime. 

Now, pundits loyal to President Bashar Assad, tell us that his regime won the civil war and that Lebanese must adapt to that "reality".

According to the criterion devised by radical regimes, such analysis is true. The regime survived. But in reality, the claim of victory is at best premature.

In military terms, Assad's regime was on the brink of collapse had it not been for the direct intervention of Russia, despite Iran mobilizing the bevy of militias from its homeland, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon.

It took the direct intervention of ground, sea and air forces by Russia to secure Assad's "victory," with 63,000 Russian troops deployed in Syria according to the Russian ministry of defense. 

Unlike wars among nations, civil wars are not won or lost on the battlefield. They are decided in the realm of political settlements the day after guns fall silent, with the aim of laying to bed the origins that sparked the civil strife from igniting another wave of fighting in the future.

And this is especially true in the case of Syria.

The uprising in Syria was not sparked by fanatics like ISIS, that came later. It was ignited by popular demands to end the tyranny and corruption of the regime.

It is only when the regime reaches a political settlement with its domestic opponents that it can claim victory. Such settlement must realize the aspirations of the Syrian people and not seek the survival of the regime.    

Mr. Ajami is a freelance researcher, writer, and contributor to The Arab Weekly, London. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Annahar.

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