The Syrian and Yemeni crises are stagnating whilst the number of victims is rising every day, with the ruling regimes hanging on to power in the face of popular protests, using every form of suppression in order to quell their respective uprisings. Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime is maneuvering and evading promises because in reality it does not want to give up power. It even feigned acceptance of the Gulf initiative. Saleh feels that he can try to buy more time and perhaps succeed in suppressing the popular revolution. Taking advantage of a clause in the [Gulf] initiative, the [Yemeni] President, his relatives and close associates have been granted guarantees that they will not be prosecuted or tried in court. In fact, this represents the weak point in the Gulf initiative that the regime has exploited, because it has made the [Yemeni] regime believe that it can continue its policy of suppression and murder up until the last moment, perhaps in the process succeeding in putting an end to the popular uprising, for even if it fails it is guaranteed to be exempt from prosecution for the crimes it has committed.
There is a viewpoint which argues that nothing will encourage the regime to relinquish power if its leaders believe their fate lies in arrest warrants, along the lines of the fugitive [Tunisian] president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, or a criminal trial like the detained [Egyptian] president Hosni Mubarak, or a manhunt along the lines of the pursued [Libyan] Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. For this reason the Gulf initiative included a clause granting the Yemeni President, his relatives, and some members of his regime, immunity from prosecution and trial, to persuade him to step down. The problem is that President Saleh, who has become addicted to political maneuvering to stay in power, found this clause to be an opportunity to continue political maneuvering and stalling, and continue the policy of force and murder, in order to break the backbone of the protesters. Thus his return from medical treatment in Saudi Arabia coincided with the escalation of violence, and this is not to mention his comments that suggest that he will not relinquish power easily and that he wants revenge against his opponents, especially after the assassination attempt which has left him disfigured.
On the other hand, the Syrian regime is also continuing its policy of suppression and murder, stepping up its military campaign against the cities where protests have taken place, using all the ferocity of its security, military and suppressive machine to confront the rebels. The regime does not seem concerned by the protests and Arab condemnations, or worried by the growing international embargo against it. It is trying to accelerate its military campaign in the hope of ending the mass protests, in order to devote itself afterwards to circumventing international pressure, seeking to divide the international community by providing limited concessions to ensure that the regime survives, and power remains in its hands. It is undertaking superficial measures to imply that popular dialogue is taking place, and various committees are making recommendations for “constitutional amendments”. These are only surface developments within the government, but they do not change the nature of the regime, or its desire to continue with authoritarian rule and monopolize power. The regime has gone too far in its campaign of suppression and abuse, and it could never feel safe amongst its opponents were it to conduct genuine dialogue and hold free elections, in light of the public anger that it has generated during the past period. Therefore, it will rely on the sole policy that it believes will keep it in power; namely the policy of suppression.
On several occasions, the Syrian citizens facing the regime’s fierce security crackdown have raised banners demanding Arab, Turkish or even international intervention to protect them. Yet, the Arabs in their current situation seem completely unable to respond to the Syrian call, and the most they can do is to denounce such deeds, whilst some Arab states have recalled their ambassadors from Damascus. As for Turkey, despite intensifying the tone of its criticism and holding advanced consultations with a number of Western states to increase pressure and impose a boycott on the al-Assad regime, it seems to have no inclination towards taking military measures, especially as this could lead to a confrontation with Tehran, which would opt to defend its Damascene ally. However, Ankara may find itself forced into a corner if the Syrian military defectors are successful in implementing their plan to gain control of an area adjacent to the Turkish border, aiming to create a safe zone to protect civilians under an international umbrella. The Syrian regime will definitely act to prevent this, and as a result battles may break out near the border in a manner that prompts Turkey to take action that gives credibility to its stances, especially following the escalation of its verbal confrontation with Damascus.
What remains is the position of the international community, which so far does not seem to have any inclination towards military intervention, especially as the Syrian opposition and a number of regional parties have expressed their objection to such an option. The Syrian opposition, which this week announced the formation of a national council, has emphasized its demand for international protection, but at the same time, rejected military intervention. However, this has raised questions as to how exactly this protection can be implemented without some kind of military force.
The opposition sought to clarify this problematic issue by saying that "protection does not mean military intervention, because the Syrian people reject foreign occupation." In fact, all nations reject occupation and no one advocates foreign military intervention, but what is the solution? What are the means of ending the campaign of suppression and murder being carried out against the citizens, who have shown great determination to persevere with their protests despite all the violence and abuse?
Throughout the events of the Arab Spring, protestors who found themselves showered by bullets and exposed to torture continued to put forward a question in the form of a desperate appeal for help: Where are the Arabs? As the people slowly began to regain their voices, they expressed their suppressed rage at the Arabs' weakness which had allowed regimes to torture their own citizens without fearing the possibility of an Arab intervention by force.
In past years, people used to say that the African continent was the sick man who was too weak to do anything for himself, and who always expected the white man to take pity on him and lend him a hand whenever he stumbled or faced a crisis. Today, the African Union has a voice that is heard in all the crises of the continent. Its forces can move from place to place upon the orders and decrees of its leaders, allowing them to intervene militarily in a number of the continent's crises that require military or humanitarian intervention. The African Union's troops today are deployed in Darfur, Sudan, as well as in South Sudan under an international umbrella. There are even Ethiopian troops in Abyei, and African Union troops are also present in Somalia, aiding the government there in its fight against armed militias. In the political arena, we see African leaders mobilizing and forming wise committees to intervene and mediate the continent's crises.
Are the Arabs weaker than the Africans?
At the present time, indeed we are, despite all our abilities and potential. The problem lies in the lack of will, believing our disagreements are unsolvable, and in accepting our lack of confidence. We have convinced ourselves that we are powerless and are satisfied to play the role of victim so that we can always place the blame on others. Such a sense of weakness was one of the reasons that caused frustration to spread, and prompted the people to lose confidence in some of their leaders. This feeling has contributed to the outbreak of the wave of popular uprisings and revolutions demanding freedoms, rights, and the restoration of our dignity and self-confidence.