When It Comes to the UN, Assad Has Nothing to Fear

The Arab League's leadership, which has been foot-dragging for months, understood that no practical proposal for international action similar to that which took place in Libya can pass Russian and Chinese barriers.

Bashar Assad isn't going anywhere yet. On Friday, Russia made it clear that any draft resolution that would make its way to the UN's agenda and that would include the demand to oust Assad would be vetoed. By doing so, Russia gave the Arab-French initiative a resounding slap in the face for demanding just that: a transfer of power from Assad to his deputy, the formation of a unity cabinet with opposition movements, preparing for free elections, and an interrogation of all involved in the murdering of civilians in the country.

It's a much leaner proposal from the original Arab draft, which sought to impose more sanctions on Syria, or the Qatari offer to send Arab troops. In this new version, there isn't a mention of further sanctions, let alone military involvement. The Arab League's leadership, which has been foot-dragging for months thinking that it could sway Assad from killing more civilians, understood that no practical proposal for international action similar to that which took place in Libya can pass the Russian and Chinese barriers this time, prompting it to send the softened version meant to indicate that the League has given up and intends to hand over the Syrian issue to the international community, and let the chips fall where they may.

Bashar Assad Jan. 11, 2012 (AFP)

Being a draft, the resolution's wording isn't final, and it is to be discussed only later in the week, with officials expecting that the clause calling for Assad to transfer power to his deputy – similarly to the Yemeni model – will be taken out, leaving a piece of paper calling for the cessation of violence and to conduct a national dialogue. Assad, for his part, rushed to clarify his take on the diplomatic initiative on Friday, as his forces continued to slay dozens of civilians in cities across Syria, mainly in Homs, where more than 100 people were killed in that one day. Reports in Syria indicate that large Syrian army forces are implementing a new tactic, wherein they encircle the cities and areas of Damascus, cut off electricity and water, and bombard whole neighborhoods, arresting hundreds. One report claimed that the authorities instructed Alawi citizens in several cities to leave their homes so the army could bombard without fearing injury against Assad loyalists.

Reports coming from the resort town of Zabadani, which was captured by the Free Syria Army, reveal that alongside the option of moving freely and maintaining a functioning school system, armed groups are setting the score with anyone suspected of supporting the regime. Here, like in Iraq, it has become clear that the campaign is not only against the regime and its loyalists, but also between different armed groups and movements that seek to rule villages or parts of cities, and who engage in gun battles and employ targeted assassinations against one another. The result these conflicts is that now, even those who are opposed to the regime, are calling on the Syrian army to reenter these areas and impose order.

Syrians can expect a long period of time before any turn around, with no guarantee that said turn around will bring about the end of Assad’s rule. For the international community, it is more important to solve the crisis with Iran without opening another front with Syria that may bring about an Iranian response in the Gulf. Over 6,000 Syrian citizens are still not a good enough reason for intervention. As a rule, it seems the number of those killed is not a reason for anything. In Darfur, many have died as a result of war and hunger. Even there, Russian and China managed to prevent imposing sanctions on Sudan. Furthermore, it seems as if the West has become fed up with the “Arab Spring” and the desire for democracy.

Hamas – not in our house

On Sunday there will be a “historic” meeting between Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Hamas’ Khaled Meshal. After two weeks of preparations, especially on the part of Qatar, as well as continual delays, King Abdullah will hug Meshal, turning over a new leaf after Hamas was banished from Jordan 13 years ago. For Abdullah, this is another opportunity – after hosting the talks between Israel and the Palestinians – to force his way back into Palestinian politics after being asked politely by former Egypt President Hosni Mubarak, as well as by the Palestinians themselves. Abdullah, who will celebrate his 50th birthday on Monday, will attempt to promote the Palestinian-Palestinian reconciliation, so that Jordan may protect its interests, even during the New Palestinian Era.

Meshal, whose departure from the Hamas leadership is not final, is now vigorously searching for a new home for his movement. Tunisia as well as Qatar, whose efforts led to the meeting between Abdullah and Meshal, has agreed to host the organization, although Hamas sources have told Haaretz that “Jordan is our preferred location. It is close to the Palestinian arena and is more convenient, both politically and financially.” Qatar, which will likely become Hamas’ new financial guardian, after Iran dramatically decreased its aid to the organization, also sees Jordan as the proper address for Hamas’ home. Thus, Qatar may hit three birds with one stone: it will avoid American criticism for adopting Hamas, it will find the organization a new home, and it will influence the reconciliation process through Jordan. Jordan is not blind to Qatar’s intentions, but it is finding it difficult to refuse its position. In the last several months, Qatar has frozen approximately $6 million in investments in the Syrian market, and instead has moved the majority of the money to Jordan. Qatar’s Woqod fuel company announced that it would open its new gas stations in Jordan instead of Syria. Woqod will also build two power stations in Jordan, and a Gulf States meat importing company is now buying Jordanian sheep rather than Syrian ones, all in addition to Qatar sending direct aid to the Jordanian government.

But across the Jordan River, two fortified walls block the way. President Obama made it clear to Abdullah, during a meeting held last week in Washington, that he opposes Jordan becoming Hamas’ new base. No less important is the Jordanian movement opposing Hamas’ return to the kingdom. “Jordan - Our Home,” an organization made up of Jordanian youth from the city of Karak, is an up-and-coming protest movement reminiscent of Egypt’s April 6th Youth Movement. Several days ago, it published a declaration that announced, among other things, that it was “opposed to the return of Hamas to Jordanian land. Firstly, because it is against the constitution, secondly, Hamas’ place is on Palestinian land, and thirdly, because we seek to create the Jordanian identity in the same way we sought to create a Palestinian identity, and legalizing the separation between Jordan and Palestine will allow us to consolidate our identities. The granting of citizenship to Palestinians must stop in order to prevent their re-settlement in Jordan, and to outline Jordan’s boundary in order to make official that of the Palestinian state.” It couldn’t have been put more clearly, especially from a group that supports the regime and the Jordanian king.

Jordan’s Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Rakan al-Majali, made efforts to calm both the United States and internal opponents, when he clarified that inviting Meshal was not part of a new Jordanian agenda, but even if there is no new agenda, a new set of policies is in the making.