Is Assad Winning Hearts and Minds?

06/08/2013 10:22 am ET | Updated Aug 08, 2013

Mubarak (noun): a psychotic ex-girlfriend who doesn't get that it's over. -Bashar al Assad, according to emails revealed by WikiLeaks

Bashar al Assad joked that Mubarak was a "noun" for "a psychotic ex-girlfriend who doesn't get that it's over." Ironically, Assad emailed this about Hosni Mubarak after his fellow authoritarian leader unleashed a group of thugs on horses into a crowd of Tahrir protesters. But, if Mubarak was the psychotic ex-girlfriend, then Assad fits his own definition. Assad is not winning hearts and minds -- especially with his neighbors.

Psychotic Ex-Boyfriend
Actually, he's worse: Assad is the psychotic EX-BOYFRIEND that even the police do not want to deal with after someone dials '911.' In this case, the '911' call is The United Nations Security Council, with Russia as the cop who refuses to acknowledge that a fellow cop is beating up his wife. A year ago, when the death toll stood at 14,000, the Assad regime proved to be the bully while the international community responded in five stages. Now the death toll stands at 94,786 -- almost half of which are civilians -- and the international community has entered the sixth stage: a return to denial.

Look at the latest Syria crisis: a Syrian regime led siege on Qusair, which is located between Damascus and Homs. For three weeks, Syrian Armed Forces shot at both opposition and Syrian civilians. The Assad regime targeted Qusair because it is a hub for Syrian opposition forces to get its arms and people.

Several U.S. Congressional hearings continue to argue whether or not Syria represents a civil war or a proxy war -- as if that distinction determines whether human rights violations warrant stronger action. Or if making that distinction will determine whether chemical weapons were used.

On the human rights violation point, Congress introduced legislation calling for Assad and his affiliates "to be tried before the International Criminal Court for committing war crimes" after two years of deliberation. On the chemical weapons point, France completed its investigation and concluded that chemical weapons have been used. But because of the Iraq experience, it will probably take a few more years to deliberate -- even when, and if, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry gets on the ground in Syria to officially investigate.

Stage 6: Denial
A few days ago, a NATO survey concluded that "Assad winning the war for hearts and minds" Supposedly, the study was supported by "Western-sponsored activists and organizations". The data from the NATO survey claimed:

  • 70 percent of Syrians support the Assad regime.
  • Another 20 percent were deemed neutral.
  • Remaining 10 percent expressed support for the rebels.

Given that McCain just completed a high-profile visit to ramp up the campaign to arm the opposition, this "data" does not help. Therefore, two questions come to mind. The first question: who were these activists and organizations? The second question: how was this survey carried out in a country where about 1.6 million Syrian refugees fled to at least four countries (Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq)?

The financial cost of aiding refugees do factor into neighboring countries' engagement strategies. Look at Jordan and Turkey, which is costing Turkey an estimated 1.5 billion dollars. Jordan wants to monitor its border with Syria, so the United Stats will be deploying F-16s to Jordan.

Both questions probably involve long, convoluted answers. Regardless of the answers, or who chooses to remain in the denial stage, the following remain true:

After about 70 interviews, Human Rights Watch reported how the Syrian government agents have systematically interrogated students, as young fourth-graders, in schools.

Wednesday's Congressional hearing did not mention this survey. The witnesses did not mention this survey either, nor echo its "conclusion" that "Syrians are withdrawing from the revolt," which severely undermines the call for any type of intervention for any reason -- be it humanitarian, fear of rampant chemical use, or the popular rallying call of containing foreign fighters.

Back to the psychotic ex-boyfriend analogy: the survey implies that Assad has exhausted "his" people with his neighborhood stalking (incursions into Lebanon), physical abuse (See video of hospital treating trauma sent by a relief worker in Idlib, Syria.) and manipulations. By manipulations, we mean lying about receiving the S-300 missile system from Russia. The S-300 system is 144 long-range surface to air missiles, which amounts to a couple of Qusayr sieges.

Friend that Enables the Ex-Boyfriend
Every psychotic ex-boyfriend, or stalker, has that friend who ignores the situation. On that note, Russia blocked the United Nations' "Declaration of Alarm" DESPITE the International Red Cross's calls for immediate access to besieged Qusayr. Russia's response: the U.N. had "failed to speak out when Qusair was seized by rebels," as if Russia presented evidence at earlier U.N. meetings outlining atrocities that went unheeded by the international community. For the last two years, Russia has demonstrated a pattern of blocking any Security Council resolution that calls out Syria.

At this point, even if the U.S. remains wary about Syria Crisis taking on some version of the 2003 Iraq invasion, and chooses not to intervene militarily, can we at least take responsibility with our diplomatic relationship with Russia and suspend our aid to them? Apparently, Russia is not as interested in U.S. aid, these days. So why bother if the aid is not appreciated?

So what happens with the psychotic ex-boyfriend when the police do not arrive, or dismiss the call? The girlfriend takes matters into her own hands. Or, she winds up in the intensive care unit... if not the grave.

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