Game Change for Syria

Bashar Assad promised the UN General Secretary just yesterday that his security forces are out of the main cities of Syria. Hours later more Syrian civilians were murdered by "their" army. The same happened after the visit of Turkey's Foreign Minister in Damascus. Bashar promised to have the army out of Hama, but in reality the massacre continued unabated.

A question was raised whether Bashar is really in control, or is he just the showcase of the cruel Alawite junta around him, led by his brother Maher. An interesting question, but as of today completely irrelevant after President Obama's call for the immediate ouster of Bashar Assad, which was heeded by France, Britain and Germany, in what seems to be a concerted NATO move. Turkey is expected to follow suit, and so we are witnessing a game changer in Syria.

The west is finally united in its desire to see Assad out and many may argue that it happens too late. But in this case, better later than never, particularly that the repercussions of the move will be immediate and far-reaching. The uprising in Syria will dramatically escalate with the opposition greatly encouraged by the American/western move.

The Middle East is known for its obsession with conspiracy theories, and one such theory was that the west, led by the US, really wants Assad to stay in power, and all the rhetoric against him was no more than a propaganda ploy. Obviously, this was a negative for the Syrian opposition. As if to increase the volume of this far-fetched story, came another silly conspiracy rumor that also Israel wants Assad to stay, and since this is clearly the Iranian interest as well, there is a commonality of interests between Israel and Iran. In fact a world-wide coalition that wants Bashar to stay on. Not really. Bashar Assad is a pariah and this new dubious status means that the enemies of the regime have been given a sanction to intensify their struggle and they will.

The remaining days of the holy month of Ramadan, Fridays but not only, will be particularly bloody. The remorseless suppression of them by the security forces will increase the outcry in the Arab-Islamic world against Bashar Assad and his henchmen. More Arab and Muslim states will cut off their relations with Damascus. The road to a military intervention will be shortened, and when it happens it will include Muslim forces, Turkish but not only.

The Obama announcement makes it clear that an alternative Syrian government is still some way down the road, but Assad himself is the first to realize that the next step will be exactly that. Here is the challenge of the Syrian opposition, as well as that of the Sunni powers in the Middle East and the west, particularly the US. They need to form an alternative government and quickly. Such a government will have the legitimacy to call for external intervention in Syria.

Now, that the Assad regime is viewed as illegitimate by so many countries, among them Arab and Muslim, the need for an alternative is becoming inevitable and urgent, and this is where the American move is so crucial. Whether American statesmen will admit it or not, today announcement by the president is opening a chain of events that is leading to the final demise of the current murderous regime in Damascus.

This is a regime that is not likely to go down quietly, and they prove it continuously. Until today, they could play with meaningless promises for "change", "reform", "dialogue" and with that try to gain time. From now on, this game is over once and for all. The growing isolation of the Assad regime, as so dramatically illustrated today, will have major repercussions also on those elements in Syria that were ready until now to tolerate the Alawite regime. I refer to some Sunnis and Christian particularly members of the business community in Damascus and Aleppo, who still believed, out of self-interest or self-delusion, that the regime is capable of adapting itself to the new circumstances and evade, even at the last moment, a complete international isolation.

They know better today, and for them the prospect of doing business with the Islamic Republic of Iran or Hezbollah in Lebanon is not what they dreamed about. So today's events are another huge nail in the coffin of the Assad regime. The tragedy is that until we see the final nail in that coffin, we are bound to see so many more coffins of innocent Syrian civilians, butchered by a government pretending to be theirs.