Apart from the firm support that UN heavyweights Russia and China is giving to the Syrian regime, the failure of Western countries to stand behind the Syrian opposition is an important factor prolonging the crisis in the unstable country, Tel stated in an exclusive interview with Sunday's Zaman.
Tel is currently the editor-in-chief of the Jordanian weekly el-Liwa. Previously working as director-general in the Jordanian Prime Ministry's Press and Public Relations Department, he has also published a number of books on Jordanian and Middle Eastern foreign policy, with a special focus on the Palestinian issue.
“As long as the civil war situation continues in Syria, Bashar al-Assad will continue to stay in power, because the most important supporters [of Assad] are Russia and China. Also, I don't believe that Western countries are acting together with the Syrian opposition or seriously supporting them,” he said.
The veteran journalist also mentioned that the Assad regime is still protecting its “strong structure,” despite all the defections from the regime. Such a structure gives a great advantage to the regime's side compared to a “fragmented [Syrian] opposition.”
The most senior level official to have defected from the Syrian regime is Riyad Farid Hijab, the former prime minister who fled to Jordan first and then headed to Qatar, according to diplomatic sources. His post was assumed by Wael Nader al-Halqi in less than one week.
On the other hand, Tel mentioned that international sanctions that aimed to break the resistance of Syrian regime in its violent crackdown on the opposition are hard to implement due to the stance of Syria's neighbors, including Lebanon and Iraq.
“The international community does not have a chance to place economic embargos on Syria. These embargoes could only be implemented via Lebanon, but Lebanon is not standing against Syria. On the other hand, Iraq could not do that,” the journalist explained.
‘Keeping status quo in Syria a matter of existence for Iran'
Mentioning Iran's role in the crisis, another staunch supporter of Syria, Tel claimed that keeping Assad in power in Syria is “a matter of existence or extinction for Iran.”
Tel mentioned that Syria is the only gateway giving Iran access to the Arab world, and it would never give up supporting the status quo in Syria so as not to lose that link. He also expressed the opinion that differing stances on the Syria issue have pitted Turkey and Iran against each other, saying that all regional powers against the Syrian regime “are on the side of Turkey,” while others “aspiring the continuance of the Assad regime are siding with Iran.”
Following the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Iran forged strong ties with the Assad regime, and Syria has always been of critical importance to Iran as a transit route to reach out to Hezbollah, Iran's arm in Lebanon, to maintain a stalemate with Israel.
‘Arab Spring played into the hands of Israel'
“The country which has most benefited from the Arab Spring has been Israel. When Arab Spring events began, the Palestinian issue was almost forgotten. The people following Israel's actions would see that their settlements have expanded more quickly than before,” Tel also said.
The Arab people have forgotten their most important issue, the Palestinian cause has been left on the backburner after Arab Spring events, the journalist said.
Palestinians claim all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as the core of their hoped-for state, and see all Israeli settlement as illegal encroachment on those lands. They have refused to restart peace talks until construction halts. Also, Israel's archeological work near the holy al-Aqsa Mosque is being criticized as activities being part of a planned and systematically implemented effort to destroy values associated with Muslim cultural assets.
Israel began settling the West Bank and East Jerusalem immediately after capturing them in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, and 500,000 Israelis now live there. The international community widely condemns the construction.
Jordan has been seen as a principal actor with regard to the future of Palestine. Palestinians living in Jordan, having been displaced by Israel's illegal settlement activities, constitute about 50 percent of the Jordanian population. Palestinian refugees fleeing to Jordan during the violent situation in Syria is also increasing the number of Palestinians in Jordan.
‘Egypt reassuming regional role seems difficult'
Tel commented that Egypt's efforts to produce a common regional stance towards the events in the Middle East are well intentioned, but he also stated that the country could not very easily assume its key role in balancing conflicts in the region, saying that the country would more likely be busy with its internal problems.
“[Egyptian President Mohamed] Morsi claims that Egypt will unite Muslim countries [on a regional stance], but [such a role] seems difficult. Egypt has serious economic problems, and overcoming them will take so much time,” Tel maintained.
Egypt has introduced a bold initiative, appealing to countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey to join the initiative aimed at reconciling their differences on the Syria question. However, Saudi Arabia opted to stay out of talks at the last minute, due to, according to diplomats, Shiite Iran's unwavering support for Syria's embattled regime.
Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have all demanded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down, while Iran is his main ally and accuses states including Saudi Arabia and Turkey of helping the rebels who are fighting to topple him.
Against that backdrop, some analysts said Egypt may itself not have expected much from the group and that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's main aim may have been to put Cairo back on the map as a regional powerbroker.
In former efforts to be a hub of stability in the region, Egyptian leaders have tried to mediate between Palestine and Israel, which has been regularly attacking Palestinians, who are now suffering from an Israeli-imposed blockade of Gaza, for over five decades. The country also played a key role in the 1990-91 Gulf War, helping to liberate Kuwait by contributing 35,000 troops to the international mission. After the war, Egypt led initiatives to strengthen security in the Gulf by signing the Damascus Agreement with Syria and other Gulf states. It has also participated in several UN peacekeeping missions in East Timor, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Darfur, among others.