It was hard to miss the huge headlines reporting the death of US journalist Marie Colvin. Colvin and her colleague, French photojournalist Remi Ochlik, were in a makeshift press center in the Baba Amru neighborhood in Homs, when artillery shells fired by the Syrian army hit their building.
Their death was sad and unnecessary, as was the task they went out to perform. There are blood-drenched locations, where the presence of war journalists reveals to an indifferent world, atrocities that they did not know about. Syria is not such a place. Syrian bloggers, iPhone photographers, and human rights activists tell the stories themselves. If there is a journalistic story that is worth getting killed for, they are not the ones that brought Ochlik and Colvin to Syria. Granted, people around the world have done little for the wretched citizens in Syria, but it was well aware of their hardships before Western journalists arrived on the scene.
Just a few hours before Ochlik and Colvin's death, Rami Sayyid, who was the unofficial documenter of the horrors in Homs, was killed in similar circumstances. Sayyid had filmed and uploaded to the Internet dozens of pirate videos, which where were published around the world and helped form a picture of what was happening around the city. Sayyid did not choose whether or not to take on this task. He was born in Homs and fought for his home. He was killed because he was part of a media army, who, even though their lives were in danger, fought to expose the crimes of the regime against its own people.
In contrast, Colvin and Ochlik did not go to Homs to help the besieged residents. They went there for an adrenaline fix, to "be there". Despite the fact that the materials that Sayyid supplied had great journalistic value, worldwide media did not give his death even a tenth of the attention that it gave the deaths of Colvin and Ochlik.
The festival that was celebrated upon the deaths of the two journalists was an example of the theatricality in which the entire world experiences the Syrian crisis, that is designed to cover up the lack of sincere desire to save the citizens of Syria from the clutches of its rulers.
Assad's insurance policy
It was enough to watch the "Friends of Syria" group meeting in Tunis the day before yesterday to understand why Assad's firepower is getting stronger and stronger. Representatives of 70 countries, headed by the secretaries of state from the US, France and the UK, gathered together to publish an emotional appeal to Assad to pass the scepter on to his deputy. Their appeal was not accompanied by any practical decision, and the rowdy boy Assad declined to obey. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague took care to say on the eve of the conference that military intervention was out of the question, thereby giving the Damascus regime an insurance policy to continue slaughtering its own people.
Belying reports of its impending collapse, the Baath regime in Syria has some important pillars still supporting it. Iran and Hizbullah give weapons and men. Teheran is giving economic assistance to Syria, whose economy has been battered by the rebellion. Syria is an export market for Iran, and if necessary, it will inject billions to rescue the Syrian treasury.
The military alliance between Syria, Iran, and Hizbullah is Assad's Iron Dome. Add to this the Russian naval ships that are currently anchored in Tartus, and it is easy to imagine what is going through US President Barack Obama's mind as he ponders another military operation. The US, which is bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, and mired in an economic recession, cannot afford to take on such an adventure.
France, which initiated the intervention against Qaddafi, is also a party to this, as it is embarrassed by the hornets nest left after his demise. Turkey, which threatened military action against Syria, was quickly silenced by the businessmen of Aleppo, who feed its economy. Although Ankara has given refuge to the Free Syria Army, we're talking about two divided militias that are largely helpless, lack money and arms, and constitute no real threat at this time.
The Arab League, a pro at creating meaningless headlines, is also divided. Add Hizbullah's Beirut, a Damascus supporting Baghdad out of economic motives and solidarity with Teheran. Jordan's King Abdullah II has refused to participate in sanctions against Syria, fearing harm to commercial ties and an influx of refugees that will create catastrophe for his own economy.
Two scenarios could lead to Assad's demise. The first scenario is foreign military intervention as happened in Libya, with significant backing from Syrian army deserters. The second scenario is that his army could disintegrate, especially at the top. Both of these scenarios are far from being realized. The Syrian Army general staff are mostly Alawites, Assad's co-religionists, and their Druze allies. Both groups know that if the regime collapses, they will lose their high social standing, and some will probably lose their lives. Under these circumstances in which the Syrian regime will commit genocide to survive, the international community amuses itself with sanctions and the freezing of bank assets in the West. If it were not so sad, it would be funny.
Jacky Hougy is the Arab affairs commentator for “IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal).
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 26, 2012
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012