Robert Fisk: Syria rebels will not claim their greatest prize

The appalling scenes in Syria begin to reflect the barbarism of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia

Share
Related Topics

They have gone for the jugular now. The brother-in-law of the President, the Defence Minister, a massive bomb close to – or in – the headquarters of the military apparatus run by the President's own brother. Assassinations take time to plan, but this was on an epic scale, to match the bloodbath across Syria.

Bashar al-Assad's own sister, Bushra, one of the pillars of the Baath party, loses her husband in a massive explosion in the very centre of Damascus. No wonder the Russians talk about the "decisive battle".

It won't be a replay of Stalingrad, but the tentacles of the rebellion have now moved towards the heart. And, of course, there are massacres to come. Why else would thousands of Syria's citizens flee to the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp yesterday, to seek protection from the most betrayed citizens of the Arab world?

And there is hatred enough to maintain this savage strike at the Syrian government. Eight months ago, during one of the massive pro-regime demonstrations in the Rawda district, I walked past the very intelligence-security establishment which was bombed yesterday.

At the time, a Syrian friend of mine looked at it bleakly. The torture goes on below ground, he said. "You don't even want to know what happens there." But whoever emerged from there would be happy to kill his tormentors, let alone the chief torturers.

The people's anger will embrace a duke or two. It was typical that, in their desperation to fill the vacuum left by yesterday's assassinations, the regime chose a nonentity, Fahd Jassim al-Furayj, to fill the job of Defence Minister – a man who comes from Hama, the centre of every major uprising against Syria's rulers.

We have a habit, we Westerners, of always looking at the Middle East through our own cartography – the Middle East is "east" of "us", isn't it? – but tip the map on end and you realise how close Syria is to Chechen Muslim irredentists. No wonder Moscow fears the rebellion in Syria.

And old Hafez al-Assad, father of Bashar – he used to worry in his last years that a rebellion in Syria would take the form of the terrible conflict which he followed daily on television: the break-up of "secular" Yugoslavia, whose sectarian divisions were then remarkably similar to Syria's today. And weirdly, although the throat-cutting, the militia massacres of civilians and the slaughter of children parallel the 1990s war in Syria's Algerian ally, the appalling scenes from Syria do now begin to reflect the barbarism of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia.

What can Bashar do now? Another Syrian friend put an interesting question to me the other day. Suppose the Alawite Shia President Bashar decides to flee, he said. "He will be driven to the airport by an Alawite colonel. Will the colonel let him go? I doubt it."

So two gloomy predictions. Yes, Bashar may still hang on longer than we think. And he won't leave; his brother Maher, who runs the so-called 4th Brigade, may be a different matter. But tanks in the streets of Damascus, the oldest inhabited city in the world, and the shooting can be heard from the presidential palace; these are unprecedented days. Why, a few times yesterday, even Syrian television was forced to tell the truth. The verdict? Going, but not yet gone.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The victory of the NO campaign was confirmed at 6.08am on Friday morning  

Scottish referendum: Partisan fallout, Gordon Brown's comeback and Elizabeth, the Queen of unity

Jane Merrick
The central concept of Death Row Dinners is an interesting way  to make us think more about our food  

Out there: A death row diner, the other musicians taking a leaf out of U2's (i)book and rolling up my CV for a smoking hot job opportunity

Simmy Richman
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam