The uprising against Syrian President Bashar Al Assad suffered both a symbolic and real blow this week with the government and rebels striking a deal for opposition fighters to withdraw from their besieged strongholds in the city of Homs. The deal will mean all but one district of the city will be back under government control. Only a handful of neighbourhoods surrounding the historic and now destroyed Old City now remain in rebel hands after a series of army offensives staring in February 2012.
The news of rebels’ surrender must have come as a shock to many Syria watchers. This is because Homs is known as the capital of the revolution. If the capital falls, the rest of the country is unlikely to take long.
All of Homs is in ruins after intense fighting between rebels and the government forces. But the blood that has been spilled by people for a noble cause has now been wasted, almost, unless a miracle happens which will see a reversal of fortunes.
The ceasefire agreement has been reached as the rebels found the going tough. With government troops making steady inroads and the supply of arms drying up for rebels, with the additional bane of the disunity among rebels, ceasefire was the only option.
The withdrawal of the fighters now paves the way for smooth elections in the country which Assad has trumpeted and is likely to win. The plan to hold the election is a politically astute gimmick on the part of the president. He wants to show the world that the situation on the ground is peaceful enough to hold an election, and he is fully in command. The ceasefire agreement will only lend credence to his argument.
Yesterday, the state television showed Assad in a meeting with representatives of Syria’s government relief committee. He spoke of the need to deliver aid without delay, and for greater cooperation between various agencies involved in distribution of aid. That was a clear message to the world that he was in charge, and is concerned about the welfare of his people.
Complete peace is unlikely to return to Syria soon, because some battle-hardened rebels, especially the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front are likely to continue fighting. But government troops will have an upper hand and Assad’s forces who have been able to suppress the revolution with the help of Lebanese Hezbollah will move quickly to wipe out any trace of dissent.
Syria’s will be a sad chapter in the history of Arab Spring. Tens of thousands of people have sacrificed their lives, millions have been displaced and entire swathes of land have been laid waste, only to meet this dismal end•