Wednesday, May 25, 2005
If the President is to emerge as the Man of the Hour during the upcoming Baath conference, at least in the eyes of other members of the regime as well as his own inner circle, he has no choice to act tough at this stage. It is primarily in this light indeed that we should see the current crackdown against the Islamists, the recent arrest of the Atassi Forum Board Members and of human rights activist Muhammad Raadoun, and the recent annoucement that Syria has ceased any security cooperation with the US.
The President cannot afford to look weak at this stage. As he faces a legitimacy crisis within the ranks of the Alawite sect, he cannot anymore afford to look too lenient with Sunni Islamists. And as he prepares to revamp the upper echelons of the Baath Party, the security apparatuses and the army, he cannot afford to look intimidated by the Americans, or anyone for that matter. He needs to look tough, even at the risk of a potential international, not to mention internal, backlash. And he needs to believe that the reforms he intends to introduce will more than make up for any setback at this stage. The stakes are high, his life might be on the line, and he knows it.
Still, he is bound to fail no matter what he does and regardless of his intentions. You simply cannot fix a corpse. And time is not on his side. Perhaps, at this stage in particular, it is on nobody’s side. We’ll see. We’ll see.