Opponents of the Syrian regime agree with it that Syria is not Libya, or Tunisia, Iraq, Egypt, or Yemen. This is why these opponents, whether local, regional, or external, are waging a confrontation with the regime in ways that are different than those used in Libya, Tunisia, Yemen and elsewhere. However, the regime continues to insist on “accusing” these rivals that they are dealing with Syria as they did with other cases of popular unrest.
This insistence by the Syrians reveals the degree to which the regime is mired in old-fashioned ways of thinking and methods of analysis, and failing to pay attention to new elements in the confrontation. Most importantly, they are forgetting that the crisis in Syria is fundamentally a domestic one, and that the external aspect would not have appeared, after the western world normalized its ties with the regime in Damascus in 2009 and 2010, were it not for the intifada by the Syrian people.
The leaders of the Syrian regime have failed to realize that what they blame others for is no longer valid. The west and the Arab League have dealt with the crisis in Syria differently than they have with Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt and Iraq. However, the regime has dealt with the crisis in the same way that regimes in Libya and elsewhere have dealt with popular uprisings, which resulted in their collapse. This means the Syrian regime is facing today what it accused others of and deemed far from reality. It is engaging in miscalculation; its arrogance has brought it one disappointment after another. We have seen this in the recent Arab League decision in Cairo, along with the decision two days ago in Rabat by Arab foreign ministers, and before that a series of defeats for Syria’s policies and relations with three countries with which its alliances served as a platform for international openness – France, Turkey and Qatar. This failure to realize that the older policies are useless has turned the formula upside down, something that the regime had warned against. It is repeating the Libyan experience, while the West and the Arabs are using other methods, and not copying other policies.
The “Arab spring,” whose repercussions will continue to emerge for years, has caused a change in the Arab order. In fact, it has forced the world to begin to change its dealings with these repercussions, in order to launch the process of adapting its policies toward the region. Moreover, there is the impact of the virus of popular revolutions on their societies and economic crises, and on the stance vis-à-vis the Palestinian question, but this is another matter. However, the authoritarian regimes are not recognizing the changes that are underway.
What applies to the Syrian regime applies to its allies in Lebanon. Clinging to power leads to the delusion that one is capable of using the "cards" that the regime and these allies repeatedly say they hold, and can use, as in the past. Meanwhile, the regional transformations that have resulted from the Arab spring reduce the margin of the use of these tools, if not eliminate their use altogether, to the degree that many believe that instead of Syria using other "arenas," it has become "the arena."
While Lebanese allies of the regime call on the King of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz, to intervene in order to solve the crisis (President Michel Sleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri and General Michel Aoun), is it reasonable that Riyadh can be asked to do such a thing, after the series of deceptions that Saudi Arabia has suffered in its reconciliatory efforts with the Palestinians and the Lebanese, through the Syrian-Saudi negotiations with regard to the relationship between Syria and Iran, and a failure to respect the agreement with Riyadh over Iraq? Is it logical to expect such a thing, after all these Syrian policies aimed to see the Kingdom's exit from a number of these arenas?
The Syrians have cast blame on the United Arab Emirates, because it is not in line with the expressions of friendship and the wager that it would support the regime; instead, the UAE voted with the decision to suspend Syria's membership in the Arab League. Is it reasonable to expect anything different, since the country is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which proposed an Arab initiative on 2 November, which then saw the recent Arab League decision taken because the initiative was not carried out?
The same disappointment applies to the Syrian leadership's misreading and failure to recognize the change in positions by Sudan, Algeria, Mauritania and Iraq. Is it reasonable to believe that a regime that is proud of its holding cards in Iraq, such as its hosting of Ibrahim Izzat Douri, would not affect the stance of the Iraqi government, which resorted to abstaining from the Arab League decision to suspend Syria's membership in the body, instead of opposing it, especially that Iran's influence in Baghdad has a big impact on Iraq, in favor of Damascus?
There is the hint of using the "Kurdish card" in Turkey; is it reasonable to expect that the agreement with Ankara – permitting Turkish troops to penetrate 15 kilometers into Syria to pursue Kurdish rebels – would be ignored?
In Lebanon, the use of bargaining chips has only deepened divisions in the country and cemented Hezbollah’s or Syria's control over the government, paralyzing its function of providing [political] cover for this control. Although some Lebanese allies of Damascus say "we will not commit suicide for the Syrian regime," they are getting increasingly mired in deepening the domestic divisions; they also fail to see that saying one thing and doing another is no longer useful.