Is Syria’s Bashar Assad Going the Way of Muammar Gaddafi?

As his regime slowly crumbles and options for exile and reconciliation narrow, Syria's embattled President Bashar Assad looks likely to cling grimly on to power, no matter the consequences

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ADEM ALTAN / AFP / Getty Images

Free Syrian Army soldiers point guns at a portrait of President Bashar Assad at the Bab al-Salam border crossing to Turkey on July 22, 2012

As tens of thousands of Syrians flee the chaos and bloodshed of the country’s 17-month uprising and civil war, Arab leaders on Monday raised the possibility that President Bashar Assad would be allowed a “safe exit” from power, if he quickly abandons the presidency and ends the all-out military assault on rebel fighters.

But is it too late for that?

(PHOTOS: Syria’s Bloody Civil War)

According to some — including officials from the country that said it would offer Assad asylum just a few months ago — the Syrian leader might have missed his moment to leave (and then live) in peace. It seems increasingly likely, some believe, that Assad will end his rule — and perhaps his life — in the fighting, much the way that the late Muammar Gaddafi did last October, when Libyan militia fighters cornered the dictator on the run and shot him on the spot. “We are in a kind of Gaddafi situation,” says Khaled Ben M’Barek, chief political aide to Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki. “The scenario of Assad saying that he will leave seems more and more improbable.”

In a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Qatar on Monday, officials raised the issue of a deal for Assad to leave office, according to the organization’s Secretary General Nabil Elaraby, who told reporters after the discussions that Assad could be offered a “safe exit.” He would not reveal any details, apparently because the proposal needed to be fleshed out further with other countries.

Until now, Tunisia’s Marzouki was the only leader — Arab or otherwise — to offer Assad asylum. He has twice floated the idea of taking in Assad and his family in Tunisia as a way of ending the bloody conflict, in which more than 10,000 have died. In a BBC interview in March, Marzouki said, “If the price of peace in Syria is to give a safe haven to this guy, why not?” In an interview with the Arabic al-Hayat newspaper the following month, Marzouki again pleaded with Assad to get out while he could — a strategy that Gaddafi refused to heed. “It is best for you and your family to leave alive because if you decide to leave dead, this would mean that you will cause the death of tens of thousands of innocent people,” the Tunisian President said.

(MORE: What Syria’s Unraveling Means for the Middle East)

Marzouki’s country has become used to setting precedents (if not saving presidents). Tunisia’s former leader Zine el Abidine Ben Ali fled the presidential palace in January 2011 after 24 years in power, chased out by a monthlong revolt that swept through the country to his very doorstep. Clearly concluding that his regime was on the verge of collapse, he flew into exile in Saudi Arabia — and is unlikely ever to face trial, despite being convicted in his absence in a Tunisian court. Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak staved off numerous calls to resign in peace, instead sending in forces to quash an 18-day revolt in January and February last year. Though Mubarak will now surely die in prison, after being convicted in Cairo, he at least survived the revolution. The same could not be said of Gaddafi. And in the end, might not be said of Assad.

In an intimate, imploring tone, Sheikha Mayassa, the 28-year-old daughter of Qatar’s Emir, e-mailed her friend, Assad’s wife Asma, earlier this year, urging her to persuade her husband to resign and leave Syria, at the very least in order to save his family. “I only pray that you will convince the President to take this opportunity to exit without having to face charges,” she wrote in the e-mail, which was intercepted by opposition activists and leaked to the Guardian. “I’m sure you have many places to turn to, including Doha.”

But with the conflict hugely escalating since then, those “places to turn to” might steadily have narrowed. Russian officials — Assad’s closest allies outside Iran — have not extended any offer to take in the Assads. Both President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Serge Lavrov have rebuffed reporters’ queries about whether Assad could be given sanctuary in Russia, and last Friday Putin’s aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters that the Russian President had not discussed the issue in a phone call with President Obama last week.

(MORE: A Dispatch from Inside Syria — the Rebels Celebrate Gains)

At this point, says Tunisian presidential aide M’Barek, Tunisia too would find it difficult to offer asylum to a man whose regime has overseen large-scale military killings. “If Assad at that time had sought to exit, we would have envisioned offering sanctuary,” he said. “But now, there have been thousands more deaths.”

Given the massive escalation of violence in recent weeks, one big problem is that whichever country offers Assad asylum would implicitly be offering him a safe haven from legal proceedings too. That is something many might be unwilling to do, now that so many have been killed. Syrian National Council executive member Bassma Kodmani told TIME on Monday that even if Syria’s opposition accepted a safe exit for Assad, it would not include immunity from prosecution. “If he is allowed to leave the country safely, I think what we want to see is that there remains a possibility for any Syrian to ask for his prosecution, whether inside or outside Syria, through national or international courts.”

In that respect, Assad has failed to learn some lessons from the other dictators removed by the Arab Spring, most of whom were likely out of touch with the facts on the ground beyond the bubble of their inner circles. To many cornered tyrants, inured by years of total control, it might still be hard to comprehend — even after 1½ years of brutal fighting — that the status quo they wrought over decades can disappear in a flash of smoke.

31 comments
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f_galton
f_galton

I hope he has the balls to use to chemical weapons.

Skipdallas
Skipdallas

Good riddance to this beedy eyed chinless autocrat. I hope they shoot his sorry butt.

Amit_Atlanta_USA
Amit_Atlanta_USA

Is Assad going the Gadaffi way, very likely yes. The greatest issue here is the effort at grouping together diverse peoples by the British merely based on religion (Islam). If it has not worked in Pakistan a country that's on the brink of a split-up, as current event show there's not a chance of that succeeding in the ME.

So, the ME truly requires a redrawing of maps keeping in view today's ground realities. It's time to erase the artificial lines drawn by the British. 

 

With the news that the Egyptians led by the radical MB President Morsi's plans to integrate Gaza into Egypt, and Syria withering away, it may be time to enhance the security of the long suffering Jews amp; Christians in the region.

 

With the exit of US amp; Israel's allies such as Mubarak, Islamic radicalism taking strong roots there and the constant urging of the Egyptians to abrogate the peace treaty with Israel by rabid anti-Semites like CNN/Time's Mr.Fareed Zakaria things are surely not looking good for America, Israel and the Christians of ME. The Christians in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt must be given an option to breakup and merge with Israel, and the "so-called" Palestinians in Jersualem and West Bank relocated to Jordan where they actually belong. 

Also Israel needs to get some areas of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon that were unfairly ceded to those countries by the British after banishing the Jews living there and effectively creating a tiny, indefensible land mass for Israel.

Israel and the ME Christians have the support of over 300 Million Americans and a Billion Non-Muslim Hindu/Christian/Sikh/Jain amp; Buddhist Indians.

Incidentally Mr. Zakaria who's stated to be the next US Sec.of State (GOD SAVE AMERICA!) said: 

a) "The Egyptian peace treaty is a treaty between Two Regmes and NOT Two Peoples" - Ref:  “How Democracy can work in the Middle East” – Time Feb 3rd 2011b)

b) “The Danger is from us (the US) and NOT from them (Al-Qaeda amp; Islamic radicals). Ref: Zakaria “Reflections on 9/11 and its Aftermath” CNN-GPS Sept 9th, 2011.

induscharwak
induscharwak

Every dictator bound to go this way in this era of globalization , the world polity must take note of this in this present phase of evolutionary capitalism.

logitoma
logitoma

Hear a British talk, continue to encourage war in order peoples country,

remember you are diiging a pit for the british people in the foreseable future.

US and britain can,t remain world power foreever no matter what they think, it was one time Egypt then Babylon then Greece then Rome.

Thank you

Lauro Andrea
Lauro Andrea

You see Bashar, when the going gets very tough you will see your closest people abandon you one-by-one- even your wife. Even those with as much blood on their hands and your equal co-conspirators will turn around and blame you and even feed you to the dogs to save themselves.

Evil always betrays its own agents. while goodness will take it's stand into martyrdom laying it's own life for others.

DeborahSmythe
DeborahSmythe

Here is an article that outlines how widespread the use of torture is by the military and intelligence services in Syria:

http://viableopposition.blogsp...

It is interesting to look back to 2003 and see that the torture of civilians was one of the key issues that the Bush Administration used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Guest
Guest

Not too bright for a guy with billions stashed away in Swiss accounts. He could live the high life in exile. Maybe even get on Oprah or The View.

Skipdallas
Skipdallas

True, but you overlook the fact that Megalomania is a mental illness, and crazy people rarely do the prudent or logical thing.

ERenger
ERenger

Oh, silly Bashar! Have you chosen the way of Gaddafi? It looks like you have! In that case, here is some advice for you based on what we've seen with other dictators on the run:

First, if you are tempted to hide in a hole, don't do it! Both Saddam and Gaddafi were found hiding in holes. Don't hide in holes --- they always look in there! 

Second, you might want to start keeping your backside permanently lubricated. And you also might want to accustom yourself to having things jammed in there. As we saw with Gaddafi, angry mobs carry broomsticks, and they like poking them inside dictator's booties. 

Finally, you should keep track of your weight so you can tell the hangman exactly how much you weigh. They use the weight to calculate the length of rope for the drop in order to get a good neck snap. Too short of a drop, and there's no snap, and you just strangle slowly. Too much drop, and your head pops right off! You have a kind of skinny neck, Bashar, so your head might pop off anyway, but maybe you can point that out at the same time you tell them your weight. 

Anyway, hope this helps!

indiana_jones_8888
indiana_jones_8888

EXCUSE ME SIR!  WHAT AN IMBECILE YOU ARE!  MORON! LET ME CLARIFY SOME FACTS FOR YOU.... MUAMMAR AL-GADDAFI WAS A LEADER THAT GOT RID OF THE RULING CLASS OF  PARASITES , IN LYBIA, AT THE TIME  OF HIS UPRISING,  WITH  HIS GREEN REVOLUTION,  TAKING  CHARGE OF POWER AND BECOMING THE LEADER OF LYBIA....HE KEPT ALL THE TRIBES OF LYBIA, UNITED  -NOT AN EASY JOB, BELIEVE ME-  AND GAVE HIS PEOPLE A VERY  GOOD STANDARD OF  LIVING SUCH AS FREE MEDICINE, EDUCATION, ETC., ETC. ....YES, HE STAYED IN POWER FOR 40 YEARS....BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN HE WAS A "TERRIBLE TYRANT", AS HIS ENEMIES LIKE TO CALL HIM....FOR MANY LYBIANS HE WAS A HERO....HE HELPED THE TWAREGS FROM THE DESSERT WHO -AT THE PRESENT- ARE BEING BADLY DISCRIMINATED....HE HAD AN EXCELLENT RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS AFRICAN NEIGHBOURS AND HELPED SOME  AFRICAN MINORITIES....HE TOOK GOOD CARE OF THE NATURAL RESOURCES OF HIS COUNTRY.... THERE ARE LOTS OF GOOD THINGS THAT GADDAFI DID FOR HIS PEOPLE BUT YOU WILL NOT READ -OR HEAR-  ABOUT IT IN THE WESTERN MEDIA, CONTROLLED BY BIG CORPORATIONS  THAT  ALLOW THE PRESS TO TELL USA CITIZENS ONLY WHAT THEY CHOOSE CONVENIENT FOR THEM TO BE KNOWN....GADDAFI MAY NOT HAVE BEEN "PERFECT"....BUT WHO IS?  WHAT POLITICIAN - OR PRESIDENT-  IS FREE OF MAKING MISTAKES?   JUST  TAKE A LOOK AT AMERICAN (USA)  HISTORY....AND YOU WILL FIND QUITE A FEW THAT SHOULD BE FACING CHARGES, RIGHT NOW,  AT AN INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE, FOR WAR CRIMES, AND ,INSTEAD, ARE STILL WALKING  FREE AND HAPPY ....COME ON!  WAKE UP!    AT THIS VERY MOMENT, IRAKIS, LYBIANS, SYRIANS, WOULD BE DOING  JUST FINE...ENJOYING A GOOD, PROSPEROUS LIFE, IF ONLY  THE "ALLIED COUNTRIES" HAD NOT CONSPIRED AGAINST THEIR GOVERNMENTS....IN FACT, THE REAL REASON THAT THE USA -AND ALLIED COUNTRIES- GOT INVOLVED IN THE SO CALLED "ARAB SPRING" MOVEMENT,  IS SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY ARE LOOKING FOR WHAT IS BEST FOR THEMSELVES  IN TERMS OF GEO-POLITICAL CONTROL...OR DO YOU THINK THEY REALLY GIVE A DAMN ABOUT THE WELFARE OF THE PEOPLE  OF IRAK, LYBIA, SYRIA, ETC., ETC....??  DO YOU REALLY?  GET REAL!  AND ONE MORE THING, YOU, BIG IDIOT, SHOW SOME RESPECT FOR A DEAD MAN - FOR GADDAFI'S BODY-  FOR HIS WIDOW, HIS DAUGHTER, HIS FAMILY....HAVE SOME RESPECT FOR THE SUFFERING AND CONFUSION OF A MAN IN HIS FINAL MOMENTS....A MAN THAT COULD HAVE, EASILY, LEFT AND ESCAPED THE COUNTRY WHEN THINGS GOT ROUGH, BUT ,YET, CHOSE TO STAY AND DIE IN THE LAND HE LOVED....GADDAFI WAS NO COWARD HIDING "IN A HOLE" AS YOU PUT IT....HE WAS A MAN THAT ,ALONG WITH ONE OF HIS SONS, AND OTHER LOYAL FOLLOWERS, STAYED ON BOARD OF HIS SHIP AND WENT DOWN WITH IT....AND THAT FACT , ALONE, DESERVES SOME RESPECT....IN REFERENCE TO YOUR TASTELESS COMMENT ABOUT GADDAFI BEING SODOMIZED WHEN HE WAS DEAD -OR STILL ALIVE-  THAT ONLY SHOWS THE COWARDICE, THE PETTINESS, THE BRUTALITY AND  THE LOW MORAL CALIBER  OF HIS  CAPTORS....THE  "DEMOCRACY" ADVOCATES....THE "REBELS"....IN REALITY, A GANG OF DERANGED MERCENARIES....AS FOR ASSAD IS CONCERNED, HE IS FIGHTING BRAVELY....AS REAL MEN DO....THERE ARE STILL A FEW LEFT, IN THIS WORLD, THAT PREFER TO DIE THAN TO FLEE....THAT TOO DESERVES RESPECT...."AL CÉSAR LO QUE ES DEL CÉSAR"....AND AS FAR AS YOU ARE CONCERNED, MY FRIEND, YOU MAY AS WELL FOLLOW YOUR OWN ADVICE AND "USE SOME LUBRICATION"....BUT IN YOUR BRAIN.... SO THAT YOUR NEURONES GET MOVING AND YOU CAN START PROCESSING SOME ENLIGHTENED IDEAS FOR A CHANGE....  GOOD LUCK!

Lauro Andrea
Lauro Andrea

Time for that chin implant, dragon tattoos and buzz cut too.

Sage_Z
Sage_Z

Bashar al-Assad... this is not going to end well...

Robert Brown
Robert Brown

Win the Civil War, Assad goes the way of Abraham Lincoln.  Lose the war, he goes as Qaddaffi.

Lauro Andrea
Lauro Andrea

Assad is no Abraham Lincoln at this point in history anymore. He is not fighting for some great abolitionist principle like old Abe was. He is fighting to keep his cooshy life. Assad represents no big cause not even in his allies' eyes.

Russia and China are keeping him alive as surrogate-slash-proxy-slash-template sock puppet for authoritarian rule. If he goes down, they will not hold their tides at home. 

Qaddafi was a brave guy and wet down like a man.

Assad will go down like Saddam Hussein (a coward) and trussed upside down and mangled like Mussolini. And I bet there will be IPhones rolling.

The West cannot intervene because of Iran, China and Russia but the rules say nothing about people ripping him alive with their bare hands.

Mohsen Younes
Mohsen Younes

 of course youre going to say he isnt like abe lincoln.

get off your high horse.

he is doing it to protect the Alawites, MY people who have lived in syria no fear of persecution, and the christians.

understand the situation.

Tommy
Tommy

You mean Assad should surrender himself and family to the Arab League people who are openly orchestrating  to overthrow him like ovethrowing Kadafi  ? You mean he should abandon his tribe and the Christians to let the Islamists, terrorists to do ethenic cleansing on them? Assad is defending Syrian people.

It is astonishing that USA is on the side of terrorist attacking Christians.

Lauro Andrea
Lauro Andrea

You seem to have an issue about religion or tribes.

It doesn't matter who wins as long as its representative of the people's wishes.

They want the Muslim brotherhood- they can have them.

People only get the government they deserve.

gamson
gamson

yeah peoples wishes..think HAMAS....

gamson
gamson

"It doesn't matter who wins as long as its representative of the people's wishes"

makes me think of HAMAS and the west..i guess peoples wishes means western wishes....just saying..

Tommy
Tommy

The Syrian people and Assad are willing to have a peaceful transition to a more democratic and representative form of government in recent referendum election. Unfortunately, Israel

and USA are only interested in regime change as a prelude to bring down Iran.

Turkey and Arab League countries are acting with the illusion of committing terrorism with impunity. All these countries have complex ethnic and religious components. Once the leaders of these countries sets examples to start racial ethnic hatreds, the Pandora box has been opened.

  It is still not too late for the USA to provide true leadership to prevent catastrophes from happening. Otherwise, it will

ultimately harm US interest without exception particularly in economy.

Men living in glass houses should not play with stones.

Tommy
Tommy

Apparently you have no concept of the constitution of USA, Majority rules, minority rights.

Please move to the jungle of new Libya. You work for Susan Rice or Hilary?

Bob Goodwin
Bob Goodwin

it looks like either exit now or end up hanging from a lamp post.

Lauro Andrea
Lauro Andrea

I guess so yes.

Assad is a coward and will not have the dignity of Khadaffi or even half of Saddam Hussein. 

Jethro
Jethro

Me. Assad will be tried and found guilty of crimes against his people. He then will have a trip to lamp post or to one of those big construction cranes and hung upside down until dead.

Lauro Andrea
Lauro Andrea

Yes I agree. I think his chances of a Hague trial with a cushioned fall like Milosevic is past its due date.