In confronting the popular revolution in Syria, the regime resorted to the ‘Hama guidelines’ – the strategy applied by Hafez al-Asad to end protests that took place in Hama in the early 1980s and which he managed to quash because the context favoured him. Today, however, the context is not in the regime’s favour because its forces are more thinly spread, the protests erupted over a broader area and there is more international condemnation of its actions.
‘Hama guidelines’ and the limits to a military solution
On 27 March2012, the day that Damascus agreed to the plan put forward by UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, Syrian President Bashar al-Asad visited the Baba Amr neighbourhood in Homs, where fierce battles between the Syrian army and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) had raged for almost an entire month resulting in the near total destruction of the area. Taken together, these two events that received deliberately wide coverage by Syrian state media point to the choice the regime offered: either maintain Asad’s rule through popular acceptance of weak and non-credible political reforms that will not bring about the freedom and democracy demanded by the Syrian people or face mass destruction of the kind witnessed at Baba Amr which was a replay of Hama in February 1982 and the punishment visited on it by Asad The Father. The regime will pay no heed to any initiative proposed to resolve the Syrian crisis, the most recent of which was Annan’s six-point plan of 16 March 2012. It is obvious to careful observers that the latter plan carries the seeds of its own failure especially insofar as it places Asad at the helm of political reforms against which his regime had fought for the past year.