Crippling blow

This image made from Syrian State TV video purports to show Syrian troops fighting against Syrian rebels in the Al-Midan area of Damascus, Syria on Wednesday, July 18, 2012. A bomb ripped through a high-level security meeting Wednesday in Damascus, killing three top regime officials, including President Bashar Assad's brother-in-law, in the harshest blow to Syria's ruling family dynasty and the rebels' boldest attack in the country's civil war. (AP Photo/Syrian State TV via AP video)

The bomb blast that ripped through a security headquarters in Damascus Wednesday claimed a number of high-profile victims, marking the latest phase in an uprising that continues to confound experts and Syrian officials who continue to claim that they are confronting the work of scattered groups of trouble-makers.

If the Syrian regime needed any further convincing that it is losing its grip on power, it came in the form of the explosion, which allowed the Syrian rebels to demonstrate that they indeed had the power to strike at President Bashar Assad’s inner circle.

The incident took the lives of key figures surrounding Assad who were tasked with carrying out the dead-end approach of a “security solution” to Syria’s uprising, and dealt a body blow to the morale of the Syrian military and the segments of the population that still unequivocally support the president.

As the rebels promised, they have taken the fight to the streets of Damascus, once one of the safest capital cities in the world.

Artillery strikes and helicopter attacks have now become commonplace, targeting neighborhoods, suburbs and small towns around the capital and the rest of the country. Meanwhile, Syrian state media, and state officials, spent much of the day carrying on with their usual policy, namely of denying that the regime was losing its grip on power, and vowing to eradicate the “terrorists.”

In fact, the exodus of high-ranking military figures to Turkey continues, while the proximity of the Syrian rebels to military units in and around Damascus has only encouraged disgruntled rank-and-file soldiers and officers to defect from their units.

All of these developments are taking place in the run-up to the month of Ramadan, which last year saw a noticeable uptick in daily protests against the regime. This year, the momentum of the rebels has surged dramatically, even the holy month approaches.

The explosion also dealt a body blow to the political career of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who has been busy talking about how the majority of Syrians support Assad and his government, and seeking to broker political deals between the regime and a handful of opposition figures with little influence among the ranks of the rebels.

As a response to the bombing, the leaders of the United States and Russia spoke by phone to agree to put their earlier differences behind them and work together to arrive at a solution to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria.

The solution they discussed did not include the name of Assad.

The regime should realize that in recent weeks and months, it was seen as the “sick man” of the Arab world, as its legitimacy and influence were suffering a steady erosion. Now, it has entered a state of clinical death, and even some of its friends seem to be preparing for its eventual burial.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 19, 2012, on page 7.




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