Syria’s President Bashar Assad has proposed an urgent referendum on a draft constitution. The announcement, however, was followed by reports of new violence. At least 100 people were killed in heavy shelling by government forces in the city of Homs.
Lawrence Davidson, a professor of Middle-East History at West Chester University, believes that it would be premature to state that Syria is on the brink of all-out civil war. However, a part of the country’s opposition, he says, wants the violence to continue, whereas the voice of peaceful protesters has been lost amid the foreign-funded uprising.
“There is an element within the opposition that wants, essentially, that kind of violence, and that element is being funded and armed largely from the outside, largely from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf,” he told RT. “To a certain extent you’ve got the infiltration of mercenaries into Syria from the northern part of Lebanon.”
However, the historian points out that the large majority of those who protest in the streets do not want civil war.
“What they want is a change, an evolutionary change, in the regime,” he said. “I think that Assad is trying to sort of walk a middle line, saying ‘Look, we can evolve this regime, but you have to do it in a constitutional way. We are going to have this referendum’.”
Davidson believes that many Syrians would go for this offer. However, the armed groups have their own agenda, and this is why the referendum will not stop the violence, he added.
Another intriguing question pertaining to Assad’s initiative is whether the regime itself will follow through if things settle down. If there is no violence, no street demonstrations, then will the regime go down the announced path of democratic transformations?
“We can’t know that until it’s tried,” Davidson says. “However, it’s not going to be tried, because these outside-funded groups are not going to put down the gun.”