Syrian writer and researcher Ali Shihabi explains the disconnect between the mindset of the the Syrian regime and the demands of protesters on the ground which would lead to the inevitable fall of the regime in the writer's opinion. This article was translated by Wessam Muhammed.
The Syrian regime did not feel the ground shaking under its feet, except after the occupation of Iraq and more specifically after the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri in 2005. At that time, they promised to carry out a number of measures for political reforms; on top of them was issuing a law for political parties. When the regime realized that external pressures were nothing but smoke in the air, it moved back to square one.
This is the only time that the regime referred to democracy and political reform, as the threat to its existence could only come from outside. Internally, the regime was certain that the people, lacking any form of independent political organization, are incapable of taking any move to claim their rights. Thus, the regime viewed Syrians as either flattering cronies or indifferent population, as long as security forces suppressed political opposition that could be capable of organizing them. They were confident of their expertise in the area of suppression, which they accumulated over many decades.
Nevertheless, Syrians rose up against the Assad regime with all their energy and determination, which means that the regime's view of Syrians and of itself was completely wrong. Is this an evidence for its stupidity? Yes and no. A regime that maintains its powers for half a century and creates means for enforcing its policies cannot be considered stupid. On the other hand, a regime that fails to estimate the popular reaction to its practices, which could lead to overthrowing it altogether, can only be described as senseless. Thus, "the Syrian regime is both intelligent and senseless at the same time." This conclusion is not contradictory, as it may seem, but it is very consistent. Stupidity is deep-rooted in the minds of any person who looks at the future through the eyes of the past, and here lies the origins of the conflict between Syrians and their regime.
Syrians, like other human beings, just want to live their lives in harmony. It is known that human dignity and freedom, under the rule of law, have become two basic components of social life. These components can only be activated through the framework of democracy because it entails the notion of the rotation of power, which prevents corruption and plundering public resources -- something very important from an economic perspective in Syria. Rotation of power, then, requires transparency, which can be applied only trough freedom of opinion and expression.
Syrians revolted to establish a democratic political system, even if they did not explicitly state this, but they said it when they refused to remain under the control of the existing regime. How did they revolt? What was the response of the regime? The two questions shed some light upon what happened in the city of Hama:
Since mid-June, Syrians in Hama took to the streets in peaceful protests and settled in Al-'Asi square. They were chanting slogans demanding the overthrow of the regime, while trucks sent by rich traders passed by to give them sandwiches, bananas, and bottled water. In the evening, trucks came back to pick up papers and empty bottles, which protesters collected after cleaning up the streets, and then left. This is what was happening on a daily basis, despite of the army siege.
Hama residents were sure that the army will sweep the city sooner or later, and for that reason they placed some barricades in the main streets to prevent the imminent attack. On July 31, the military command sent a message to the people telling them to "start removing the barricades; otherwise the army will sweep the city." The city's elders and young people organizing the protests discussed the matter and agreed to remove the barricades, although they were certain that the army would attack them either way. The next day the army stormed Hama and around 100 people were killed.
What will happen in Hama after the army leaves? Nothing. Residents will return to protests again as people had already done in Daraa, Homs, Idlib, and Rural Damascus. Peaceful Syrian protesters are still unable to bring down the regime and the regime is unable to subdue them. Conflict between them continues in a vicious circle. The situation will not remain the same when Damascus and Aleppo join the protests in the same impulse of the cities mentioned. And this has already begun! Power relations will change in favor of the people because this situation will exhaust security forces and more segments of the regime will gradually feel the futility of continuous confrontations. All this will soon become a reality because Syrians are determined to overthrow the regime.