Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Return of Rifaat!

Will the evil uncle reconcile with the foolish nephew? If we are to go by the proliferating reports out there, something along these lines is indeed in the works. But then, something along these lines have always been in the works, and nothing has so far materialized. Why?

Because the reconciliation process will only consecrate the Alawite nature of the regime, and will signify a complete break with the Sunnis in the country, as they absolutely loathe the man. And for what? Not all Alawites will be happy with the return of this “fearless leader.” In fact, many Alawites will see in such a move a further consolidation of power in the hands of the Assad-Makhlouf clan, and they will not be happy with that. Not at all.

So, the calculations in this regard are not that simple, as some might think. This is why the reconciliation process could drag on and on and may never lead anywhere, as the spokesman for Rifaat al-Assad himself indicated when he refused to announce any specific date for the uncle’s return.

Be that as it may, we can rest assured for now that no such reconciliation is likely to be formalized while the UN inquiry into the Hariri assassination is still ongoing. Rifaat might be a fool, but he is not fool enough to link himself to a regime whose fate is still uncertain. Yes, Bashar & Co. have become a liability even for the likes of Rifaat. Go figure.

It’s a classic catch-22 really. Rifaat had a real chance of going back to Syria because Bashar is in a real trouble. But, and because Bashar is in a real trouble, Rifaat cannot realistically go back to Syria.

Meanwhile, Rifaat seems to be linking his return to an overall deal with the opposition, but, the mere insistence on such a link, no matter how insincere, only complicates matters and betrays the lack of any real progress in the ongoing talks, as the whole purpose of contemplating a return for Rifaat has always been meant as a way for consolidating power in the face of all pressures calling for reform.

These talks, then, if we are to believe in the veracity of all these reports, won’t go anywhere. This revelation seems to be more of a ploy by Rifaat meant to remind the Syrian opposition of his existence and alleged relevance in a desperate attempt to carve a place for himself within the ranks of the Syrian external opposition, perhaps even within the NSF itself. The message seems to be: if you won’t cut me in, I’ll go back to Syria and cut you all out, perhapd even, cut you all to pieces.

As such, this is more of a message, and a polite one at that, aimed more at the opposition than at the regime.