President Bashar Assad has already scored a victory by remaining in power in the face of opponents who have done everything possible to overthrow him over the past two years, a senior Lebanese source close to the Syrian leadership told The Daily Star.
“Assad has scored what could be referred to as a ‘passive victory’ and nothing so far indicates that his departure is imminent,” said the source. Still, the source has admitted that the conflict in Syria will be “long and enduring.”
According to the source, Assad has heard overt and veiled calls to step down. In his last visit to Damascus, United Nations and Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi echoed a similar demand, though formulated in a “highly diplomatic” manner, said the source.
“Brahimi’s proposal was viewed by the Syrian administration as an invitation to surrender. Assad obviously refused the suggestion,” said the source. He added that the emissary had given the impression that he was acting under the influence of “exaggerated” reports of battles around Damascus.
“Let’s not forget one important truth,” the source added. “Assad still enjoys the backing of a majority of the army, which is strong and widely united, as well as Syrian diplomatic missions, which showed exceptional unity, and of a considerable section of the Syrian population.”
The source argued that one of the reasons behind the absence of a real solution to the crisis in Syria was that the West – and the United States in particular – were pleased by the fact that two of their enemies – Assad and Islamist groups – were facing off.
“One of the reasons for the lack of enthusiasm shown by the West and especially the United States to find a rapid solution to the turmoil in Syria is that two of their enemies were fighting each other there,” said the source.
“The West is thinking: Why hurry since two of our enemies are fighting tooth and nail. Let’s leave things the way they are in Syria ...”
The source added that while Assad was still convinced that only a political solution would bring an end to violence in his country, the embattled president was well aware that extremist groups were concerned not with a political resolution but with pushing their own agenda.
“The Syrian president says that Turkey is the primary but non-exclusive source of [weapons and fighters] channeled to Syria,” the source added.
Assad also believes that U.S.-Russian entente could be the starting point to a political resolution to the conflict, the source continued.
As for those who advance the argument that Assad’s hands are stained in blood, the source said that all those involved in the fighting in Syria were equally involved and that peace was after all an agreement brokered between parties who fought each other at some point.
The source maintained that Assad’s two strongest allies, Russia and China, were well informed about the dynamics of the Syrian unrest. “The Russians and the Chinese have interests in Syria, of course, but they are also concerned about their own regional and international interests,” the source said.
The source added that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s position on Syria was well-calculated based not on the accounts of the Syrian regime and its allies but rather on the facts on the ground.
“In the end,” the source concluded, “in defending Damascus, the Russians are also defending Moscow.”