MESOP TODAYS OPINION : By Hussain Abdul-Hussain – The Syrian revolution is over. Now what? (OBAMA SERVING TEHRAN)

16 Mar 2015 nowmmedia – Beirut – Assad will prevail as insurgents turn into isolated pockets that will not be able to mount serious threats against main regime targets: Four years after its outbreak, the Syrian revolution is dead—not because President Bashar al-Assad has defeated it, but because he has derailed it, and while doing so, has also undermined his own rule.On 15 March 2011, Syria’s best and brightest took to the streets and presented what proved to be one of the most inspiring Arab uprisings on record. Syria’s revolutionaries were brave, creative, poetic, enduring and sacrificing. They thought if they pushed toward a better Syria, the world would not let Assad bloody them. But he did, and the world—despite all its charters on civility and humanity—allowed him perpetrate a brutal genocide. 

By brutalizing on an unprecedented scale, Assad brought the beast out of many Syrians. Moderates, having led the early stages of the uprising, went into exile and ceded ground to radicals, both local and foreign. Those who stayed and survived eventually turned into monsters. If you have not seen it yet, go watch Return to Homs, a documentary about one of the most charismatic, peaceful and energetic Syrian rebels, Abdul-Basset al-Sarout, and his transformation from a rally leader to a thug now fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). 

Unrealistic dreams aside, Syria missed its chance to transform into a better country in 2011, just as Lebanon missed its opportunity in 2005. The late Samir Kassir was wrong: there are no roses in Damascus or in Beirut. The Levant is a desert full of thorns. 

While ongoing battles might suggest that Syria’s revolution is not over yet, trends show that Assad will prevail as armed insurgents turn into isolated pockets which, while ambushing Assad forces here and there, will not be able to mount serious threats against main regime targets. 

Assad’s victory, however, will come at the price of his independence. Assad reasoned that by turning his fight against the rebels into an international war on terror, he could get a pass from the international community to finish off insurgents and resume his rule. Assad did turn Syria into an international issue, but not one that could lend real credence to a war on his own people. The world doesn’t sympathize with his victims, either. By turning Syria into a world affair, Assad put his country on the bargaining table between America and Iran. From that point on, Assad’s fate became a function of US-Iranian talks. Perhaps Assad thought his Iranian allies would give him a hand and leave him alone, but that will prove a miscalculation. Iran has invested heavily in Syria: it will not accept anything less than full control. Yet Iran is also known for rewarding its protégé. For his steadfastness, Assad will remain president of Syria, but all his decisions in peacetime, as in these war days, will be in the hands of Iran. So why did Obama let Syria slip into Iranian hands? 

Assad was never a friend to America in the first place. Other than their borders with Israel, Syria and Lebanon have no strategic or geopolitical importance in Washington’s eyes. As far as Washington is concerned, anti-Israel paramilitaries such as Hezbollah and Hamas have shown restraint after engaging in bloody wars with Israel. Whoever controls Syria’s borders with Israel will not be that different from what Israel is dealing with now in southern Lebanon and Gaza.

President Obama believes that any deal with Iran benefits America. If Iran becomes a US friend and ally, then its nuclear program will become a non-issue. If a deal gives Iran dominance over the region, then that would be even better. If Iran turns out to be a friend, then it will do America’s bidding. If Iran remains hostile, then expending resources to control restless Arab areas will take a toll on Iran’s power. Either way, whether Iran is friend or foe, it will fight ISIS and groups that America want to see vanquished, or so goes Obama’s thinking. 

Whatever transpires from the US-Iran talks, the Assad that was the independent and powerful ruler of Syria is no more. If he stays, he will be Iran’s man. And anyway, he will be presiding over a country recued to rubble that will take many decades to stabilize and rebuild, to say nothing of projecting power in the region like it did prior to 2011. 

In the coming months, Iran and Assad will mop up the remaining insurgency, but Syria will not go back to its pre-2011 days. Against an international background of deals and intrigue, and due to socioeconomic shortcomings, the Syrian rebels have not been able to transform Syria into a better place. And in his shortsightedness, Assad threw Syria into a game much bigger than he is capable of playing. Syria is heading somewhere new. No one knows what the Iranian dawn will look like, even if many can guess.