April Fools in the Middle East – no joke

April Fools: Western and Arab nations in Istanbul sought to exert more pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [Reuters]

For months now, leaders from around the world have been calling for Syrian President Bashar Assad to stop the violence; they called, they demanded, they issued deadlines, they threatened and they met and passed resolutions.  Assad continued to be Assad regardless of the calls, demands, threats and resolutions; last week he did agree to the six-point plan offered by Kofi Annan and the United Nations.  He agreed but changed nothing.  Now the friends of Syria are meeting in Istanbul; 83 nations  met, they officially recognized the Syrian National Council as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people, but not the representative.  Like all the meetings before them, the Friends of Syria were short of real help for the people of Syria, but long on noble words:

“The world will not waiver, Assad must go, and the Syrian people must be free to choose their own path forward, ” US secretary of state Hilary Clinton said. In a final declaration, the conference urged Mr Annan “to determine a timeline for next steps, including a return to the UN Security Council, if the killing continues”.  It added: “The regime will be judged by its deeds rather than its promises. The window of opportunity for the regime to implement its commitments to joint special envoy Annan is not open-ended.” ABC News, 4-1-12

Syria, has made a declaration of its own; Syria is claiming to have finally defeated the opposition.  The Syrian Army  has continued shelling and bombing of some areas, but the announcement implies the cessation of fighting may be at hand.  The western block, the UN, the Arab League and the Friends of Syria may get what they have been demanding, an end to the fighting, but not exactly they way they imagined it would happen.

“The battle to topple the state is over, and the battle to solidify stability… and move on towards a renewed Syria has begun,” Makdisi said in an interview originally carried on state television. The spokesman said the Assad government’s focus was also to “rally visions behind the reform process” and “prevent those who seek to sabotage reform.” Troops would withdraw from urban areas once they were secured, he said, adding UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan acknowledged there were “illegitimate armed elements within the opposition”. Middle East Online, 4-1-12

What more perfect way to celebrate the First of April than with a meeting of Fools and the end of a Fool’s Mission.  Now they can all go home and think about something else besides Syria.  As to the Syrians, whose foolish friends have failed them, they will go on suffering, but now without anyone paying attention.  It may not happen that way, nothing in Syria so far as developed that way most observers excepted; Assad and his generals are the only ones that anticipated this result; they seem to have always thought that in the end they would win.

It is clear that the fat lady will not be singing in Tahrir Sqaure or any place else,  in celebration of Syria joining the Arab Spring’s successful governmental changes.  At this point, it is not even certain that she will be singing to celebrate Egypt’s new found freedom either.  There is a presidential election coming in May, and at least for the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party, that is a good thing.  The party has said all along that it would not field a candidate, but it seems that: “Faced with challenges, and after studying the situation in its entirety, the Muslim Brotherhood decided to field its own presidential candidate”, the Brotherhood said.  As the majority party in the country, their candidate is immediately the front runner.  Even if Assad had fallen, or does in the future, it takes a long time to determine who is going to control the country afterwards and whether or not the new rulers will be an improve over the old leaders.  The Egyptians, Libyan, Yemenites and Tunisians certainly don’t know yet if things are better, do they?   Happy April Fool’s Day, I certainly have been fooled many in the last year or so by the events in Syria and the rest of the region.





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