The World from Berlin 'Exile May Be Assad's Only Chance to Save His Life'

The clock is ticking on a UN-mediated ceasefire deadline on Thursday that no one expects the Syrian regime to respect. German commentators say Bashar Assad's military power won't prevent his downfall, and see rays of hope in China's and Russia's cooling stance towards him.

Amateur video showing purported shelling in Homs, Syria, on Tuesday, in contravention of the UN-brokered truce calling for regime forces to start pulling out of cities ahead of the Thursday ceasefire deadline.
AP/ Syrian Media Council

Amateur video showing purported shelling in Homs, Syria, on Tuesday, in contravention of the UN-brokered truce calling for regime forces to start pulling out of cities ahead of the Thursday ceasefire deadline.

United Nations peace envoy Kofi Annan said on Wednesday that Syria had assured the world body that it will respect a ceasefire with rebels due to take effect in fewer than 24 hours. But President Bashar Assad's forces is keeping up attacks in several cities, and few believe he is serious about stopping the bloodshed.

The West remains opposed to military intervention, though, and action by the UN Security Council has been thwarted by resistance from Russia and China.

German media commentators see a ray of hope in growing signs that China and Russia are starting to turn their backs on Assad -- and in Turkey considering setting up a buffer zone in Syria to protect Assad's opponents. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that Syrian troops were "mercilessly" shooting fleeing women and children in the back.

Speaking during a visit to China, Erdogan said he would take unspecified steps after Syrian troops shot at refugees inside Turkey on Monday.

Editorials say Assad's fall from power is only a matter of time but fear that many more Syrians will die before he is finally ousted. Exile, some say, is likely to be Assad's only option to save his own life.

Conservative Die Welt writes:

"It looks as if the repressive Syrian regime will let its last opportunity for a negotiated solution pass. It is doing so in a complete misjudgement of the situation in which dictator Bashar Assad finds himself. There cannot and won't be a political future for him in his country which he has betrayed, destroyed and divided. Homs, Hama or Deraa are filled with the rubble of his presidency and with a people filled with hate for the ruler it once so feted."

"He is completely discredited. That is gradually dawning on the few remaining friends the lonely man in Damascus still has: Russia and China."

"Militarily, the international community has exhausted itself in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. No one wants another adventure given the well-equipped Syrian army and an uncertain outcome. Turkey seems prepared to set up a security zone in the north of the country which could serve as a basis for the Syrian rebels to conquer the country. That would be the Libyan model."

"Assad should enquire in Moscow about a 'Yemeni solution': exile and freedom from prosecution in return for peace and reconstruction. That is maybe the only chance for the eye doctor to save his life."

Left-wing Die Tageszeitung writes:

"The Assad regime still believes its military superiority will bring it victory. That is a huge mistake. The Syrian population will initially pay the price with many, many further deaths. But the Assad clan will also pay it, with its political downfall and probably its physical destruction as well. That is almost certain to happen. The timeframe remains unclear, as does the number of people who will have to die until the time comes."

"Now, after the failure of the Annan plan, the civil war will flare up with even greater brutality. All the neighboring states, from Iran and Iraq and Saudi Arabia to Lebanon and Turkey will get militarily involved, whether openly or covertly."

"Moscow will probably look for an alternative to the Assad clan among the ruling elites of Syria. In order to speed up this process, Moscow may back a UN Security Council Resolution that condemns the regime more sharply."

"The fighting will drag on for months. The number of victims will rise enormously as will the number of refugees. Sanctions and moral appeals won't have much impact. The danger that the country could turn into a bloody battlefield for years to come remains real."

Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"Since the outbreak of the Arab popular uprisings, many ways have been found of undermining the success of the peaceful, freedom-loving, jubilant masses in the subsequent months. In Egypt, generals and Islamists are conducting the struggle for power largely among themselves. Militiamen rule Libya and Yemen is effectively ruled by the clan of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. But nowhere has the yearning for freedom been betryed as blatantly as in Syria. Many rebels continue to oppose the use of violence even after this dreadful year -- but they are increasingly irrelevant for the future of their country."

"The fund of millions of dollars that Saudi Arabia and Qatar plan to provide to assist the uprising, and which American and dozens of other countries want to pay into, will be much more decisive for whether Assad falls and what happens after that. It is one of the blatant contradictions of this project that the Gulf kings want to use their petrodollars to finance an uprising that they have prevented in their own countries by flooding their subjects with far higher sums."

Left-wing Berliner Zeitung writes:

"There are growing calls for the opposition to be armed. But it is clear that a militarization of the conflict will primarily play into the hands of the Assad government because the army will stick with him in the face of an armed opposition. But if economic sanctions are imposed by a broad international alliance, and if Assad's last remaining friends turn away from him, support for the dictator should evaporate. That is the goal."

-- David Crossland


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