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Find the road to Damascus

india Updated: Feb 26, 2012 23:09 IST
Bashar al-Assad

Formulas, packages, recommendations and solutions are flying thick and fast even as the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria pounds the city of Homs for the fourth week in succession. The enormity of the tragedy was brought home with renewed vigour when celebrated American reporter Marie Colvin was killed along with French photojournalist Remi Ochlik. Now come reports that another French reporter and British photographer have been wounded even as the Red Cross scrambles to bring aid to the beleaguered city. India has come up with a three-point solution. It favours a Syria-led transition, no internally- or externally-induced violent change and close cooperation with the Arab League. Very noble, but it is unlikely that Mr Assad will be quaking in his boots. The Saudi Arabian foreign minister favours the idea of arming the opposition, the Russians and Chinese feel that everyone should stay clear as much as possible and the Arab League nations and Turkey are pushing for formal sanctions. In all likelihood, with this plethora of solutions and proposals, nothing much is likely to be done. There is much talk of how India and South Africa can play the honest brokers, but that again seems more wishful thinking on New Delhi’s part than anything else. The Iranians are far too preoccupied with their own troubles stemming from Israel threatening strikes and for all its pious intentions, the Americans are more occupied with the two wars on hand and an election juggernaut which is rolling relentlessly on. As the bombardment continues, Mr Assad has been also carpet bombing the public with promises of massive changes in the constitution, greater democratic freedoms, widening political participation and so on. No one believes him, of course, given that he seems oblivious to the extent of suffering and damage that his troops are causing to unarmed civilians.

The West has ruled out any intervention of the sort it did in Libya and many feel that this could be because unlike in Libya, the rewards are not that high in Syria. Mr Assad too seems to count on the fact that with the developments in the region and the world pre-occupied with other issues, time is on his side. He reckons, quite clearly, that he can sort out the rebel problem by flattening Homs if required before any real pressure is brought to bear on him. He is perhaps emboldened by the fact that the city of Zaba-dani, near the Lebanese border, held out for a couple of weeks bef-ore giving into ferocious bombing by Mr Assad’s troops. Unlike Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Mr Assad is not given to extreme emotion and delusion. He is careful, calculating and knows the mind of the West better than many in the region. He is hoping to wait until the storm passes. And given the longevity of the Assad dynasty, he just might pull it off. This then, might be Mr Assad’s counter-proposal to all the ones being thrust at him today.