After the Libyan rebels managed to take control of most of Tripoli yesterday, immediately the Syrian people cheered that Assad will be the next one to go. First, let me say I am concerned that everyone is jumping the gun a little bit about Libya; it is not out of the question that Gaddafi has pulled the majority of his troops back in order to trick the rebels into thinking they have control of the city, and then unleashing a fury on them. However, we will see soon enough if that is what is what will happen. I do not believe the end game will be as easy as the Libyan protesters last night led us to believe.
Returning to Syria, unfortunately, I do not think the brave people of Syria will achieve the same success as Libyans. There are some significant differences between the two protest movements that, unless things change, I believe will end up with different results. What strengthened the Libyan protest movements so much was the early defections from people in the Libyan government and military. When Gaddafi started massacring civilians, much of his military left him to join in the rebellion. This allowed the protesting civilians to transform into armed rebels, and with much support in the eastern half of the country, they were able to capture some major cities early on. So far, we have not seen the major defections from the Syrian government, and the protesting civilians do not have a militant wing, nor do they control any major cities. Hama is the center of the Syrian rebellion, but they do not control it or have power over it like the Libyan rebels have had in Bengazi. While I fully support the Syrian people’s calls for revolution, Assad has shown that he will fight to the end like Gaddafi, not step down like Mubarak, which — unfortunately — means violence will be necessary if the Syrian people want to overthrow Assad, but they have no chance unless major members of the military begin to defect in large numbers, join the protesters, and begin fighting for them. There have been defections from the Syrian military and from the Baath Party, but none appear — as as I can tell — to have any intentions of organizing a full scale rebellion. As of yet, the protesters are not organized enough, providing anyone who would be interested in joining their side little hope of success. The Assad regime harshly punishes anyone who defects from the military. Many of them have fled to Turkey or Lebanon instead of joining in the rebellion, likely realizing that despite the protesters’ noble intentions, it’s a lost cause. There seems to be a lack of intellectual leadership among the Syrian protesters too, unlike which — quite remarkably considering their diversity — the Libyan rebels, who managed to form a transitional government and coordinate attacks on Tripoli from three different fronts. It is unimaginable that a government would use tanks and heavy gunfire against its own unarmed citizens, and it is quite respectable how the Syrian people continue to protest despite these dangers, but until they become an organized movement with access to weapons and a base city, it seems impossible they could succeed. No amount of sanctions or protests will convince Assad to step down.
The Syrian rebellion faces other obstacles too. Libya was, for the most part, quite isolated in international politics. It borders two countries going through their own “Arab Spring” style revolution, and its location in northern Africa makes it easy to access for NATO powers. Libya’s greatest allies were South Africa and Venezuela, neither of which were in any political or geographical position to send reinforcements to Libya. Syria, however, enjoys a very close relationship with Iran, while Iraq sits in between the two nations. As Iraq has become relatively stable lately, a NATO intervention in Syria would trigger Iran to come to its side, and both Syria and Iran may see it as an opportunity to destabilize Iraq. NATO will make tough statements to try to discredit Assad’s rule, but I cannot under any circumstances see NATO getting involved in Syria. President Obama had a difficult enough time convincing the American public and other politicians that military intervention in Libya was necessary, but he will not be able convince them that another intervention in the “Middle-East” (for lack of a better term) is necessary, especially with an election just over a year away.
To the people of Syria, I applaud your determination and courage to stand up to a dictator who has no qualms about using tanks to slaughter thousands of innocent protesters. However, while you may feel rejuvenated by the apparent demise of Gaddafi’s power in Libya, you must realize that your situation is significantly different. You cannot expect the foreign assistance that the Libyan rebels enjoyed; you will need to do it on your own, and unfortunately this will require more than street demonstrations since Assad has shown he has no respect for human life. Your best hope is if a large amount of people in the military decide enough is enough, and decide to join your rebellion against a corrupt state. Like Gaddafi, Assad will fight until the end, and you need to be prepared to fight for your freedom. I stand in solidarity with you as you fight for your freedom — good luck!