Kofi Annan is ordering Bashar al-Assad to withdraw his army from Syrian cities and return them to barracks, but Assad cannot do that. If he moves his men and his tanks out of occupied areas, he’ll lose control and will have to kill thousands all over again just to take those areas back.
He can quietly sit on folks for a while, but then what? Reform and the scheduling of elections? Please. It’s what Hillary Clinton demands, but it’s not going to happen unless Assad first flees the country.
His forces can’t just exist in the cities. That doesn’t do him much good. His forces need to control them. A substantial number of people, however, will not be controlled. If the army starts shooting people again or arresting people again or torturing people again, the opposition won’t just sit there and take it. They’re armed and they want regime-change. Hardly anyone can even move at this point without kicking off the next round.
My guess—and it’s just a guess—is that Assad is waiting for the rebels to shoot first or set something on fire so he can say, “see, I tried, but the other side doesn’t want peace.” He’s been saying that about the Israelis for years. It worked, too, at least with those thick enough to think Israel is the major threat to peace in the region.
That sort of thing is not going to fly anymore. The good old days for Assad are over. Even the Russians have been chastising him lately. Hamas dumped him. The only friends he has left in the world are the Iranian government and Hezbollah.
The opposition is planning peaceful demonstrations this Friday. Someone should ship them some body armor.