There are important crises in the playing for time phase, such as in Syria, and things appear confused to many. There appears to be room for stances taken in the gray zone, which lead to many delusions by the players in the conflict. It allows the players to hit each other under the belt and leaves the various sides in a state of weakness and inability to act.
Thus, the presidential elections in the United States have been coma-inducing, as they have frozen all of the serious attempts to create mechanisms to end the Syrian crisis. They have prolonged the "overtime" phase of the conflict, which began with the third Russian-Chinese veto in the Security Council in July, preventing any international consensus on a transition plan for Syria. US president Barack Obama told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin around six months ago that after the elections he would be able to agree on solutions for some pending issues between the two countries. The regional-international alliance supporting the regime of President Bashar Assad has sought to benefit from this "overtime" phase to the greatest extent possible.
The influential, great powers need more time to reach an agreement, and there is an implicit conviction by western countries, led by the US, that a Syria that exits this crisis destroyed, exhausted and quasi-divided will be the best guarantee for Israel. Assad, as usual, has begun to understand this as an international decision to support his remaining in power. The regime has easily convinced itself and its allies that it is indispensable, and that it has overcome the danger. It has continued to commit a huge magnitude of massacres, aerial bombardment and the annihilation of towns and neighborhoods of cities and areas around Damascus, as well as the heart of the capital. This is due to the virtual situation in which the regime exists, believing that its crisis is with the outside world and not with its people, and at home this time, more than anything else.
However, the damage done by playing for time has extended to areas outside Syria in the last two months. The members of the alliance supporting Assad, from Russia and Iran to Lebanon, have found the opportunity to play off the regional situation; they have taken steps, whose importance varies one country to another. Thus, this "overtime" period has allowed the regime to turn over border areas with Turkey to PKK fighters, in parallel with carrying out military provocations with Turkey along the borders, which has seen new fronts opened to the outside world. The regime's cells have moved in the direction of Jordan while the regime's ally Iran has continued to support the popular movements in Bahrain and Yemen and elsewhere in the Gulf. Russia has sought to fill the vacuum of the American withdrawal from Iraq via a large weapons deal with Baghdad. In Lebanon, with an arena easy to penetrate due to the many Syrian allies that are present, the alliance that supports the Syrian regime has kept the security situation "hot," at times in the north and at times in the Bekaa and elsewhere. There were some who prevented the use of all of these tools: Brigadier General Wissam al-Hasan, the head of the Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces, stopped former minister Michel Samaha's plans to use bomb attacks to stir sectarian and religious tension. This pro-Syrian alliance has gone on the offensive in defending the regime; the launching of the Ayyoub drone over occupied Palestine was one of these incidents. It has also acted in other arenas, such as that connected to the Iranian-Israeli confrontation, or when certain parties in Lebanon dared to raise the issue of the future of Hezbollah's weapons. Yet another element of this policy of using regional tools involved Hezbollah's openly sending members to fight alongside the regime in Syria, whatever the justifications offered by the party, in engaging in something so openly.
It would be logical also to classify the assassination of al-Hasan as part of this policy of playing with regional "cards" in the overtime period; the pro-Syria alliance has sought to exploit this phase as much as possible, after it proved to be a lengthy one.
Causing the failure of the truce sought by special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is the same as the use of these regional cards in overtime, which, by definition, cannot produce an international mechanism for a political transition in Syria. How could a truce be created during a period that the pro-Syria alliance believes should be used to strengthen these regional tools, until a new phase begins?
The alliance has seen the overtime period as suitable to building up these tools, and it is natural for it to not abandon them. Is it logical to see the regime and alliance accept a transition in power in Lebanon, with the fall of the Najib Mikati government, and in Iraq, by toppling the government of Nuri al-Maliki, while a transition is rejected in Damascus? Can it accept change in these two countries, unless change is anticipated in Damascus, or will it retain what exists at present in Beirut and Baghdad until the final moment, even if the overtime period in Syria is over?
As we await the developments, the talk of a vacuum (in Lebanon) is meant to divert attention from the real issue.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily represent or reflect the editorial policy of Arabstoday.