On reports of a solution to the Syrian conflict

The narrative that Turkey is now inclined to agree to a solution that accepts Bashar al-Assad as Syrian president but without jurisdictions for six months does not seem credible. This is because most countries in support of the Syrian opposition agreed to the same proposal more than a year and a half ago. I believe Turkey was one of these countries.

At the time, Iran and Russia welcomed the proposal as a means to gain time to ease pressure on the regime. They said they would meet with opposition delegations to discuss suitable options. However, in later months several countries increased arms supplies to the regime, and drowned Syria with armed militias from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hezbollah had already been fighting alongside the regime. At the same time, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) distorted the revolution’s reputation through its murderous operations and propaganda. It targeted Kurds and foreigners, and attacked areas seized by the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) from the regime. In addition, Russia targeted Turkey in an attempt to neutralize it.

Due to all that, a political solution was no longer necessary for the Tehran axis because it believed it was succeeding militarily. Meanwhile, the West feared supporting change due to ISIS’s horrific crimes, and particularly after immigrants flooded Europe - the biggest number to do so since the end of World War II.

Regime on life support

However, the world saw that despite all the support the Assad regime received, it was unable to keep areas it had seized. It is eroding on the military, administrative and security fronts, and above all is rejected by most Syrians. For example, Russia’s air force, Iranian troops, Hezbollah militias, and Iraqi and Afghan forces have failed to seize Aleppo, despite the destruction inflicted on it.

I do not think that Turkey or Gulf countries will bow to Iran and Russia in Syria, because the repercussions would not be limited to Syria

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Those supporting Assad with men and money are well aware that they are far from victory. They know that the crisis will last longer, and that the cost of defending him will deplete their capabilities. However, I do not think this enough to convince them to give up on him by accepting face-saving solutions that maintain most of their gains.

Approval of the proposal to keep Assad as interim president without jurisdictions, while holding elections to prepare for a transitional phase and establish a unity government, was viewed as a concession made by the opposition and countries in support of it. The proposal is still suitable given that neither party is able to win the war. However, if the opposition accepts less than that, it will be an implicit defeat.

There is a lot of pressure on the opposition’s allies. The two main players are Russia and ISIS. It is because of the latter that the war partially spilled into Turkey, where frequent explosions threaten the country’s tourism, trade and stability. I do not think that Turkey or Gulf countries will bow to Iran and Russia in Syria, because the repercussions would not be limited to Syria. Strengthening the opposition is their only solution.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 10, 2016.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:51 - GMT 06:51
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