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The day after a strike on Damascus

Jamal Khashoggi

Published: Updated:

It will be a serious problem if the Syrian regime does not collapse a few days after its security headquarters and military junctions are bombed. But then again, it will also be a huge problem if the regime quickly collapses and the rebels move towards the presidential palace declaring the fall of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, right from the threshold of the Syrian parliament.

How? The Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon and U.N. and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi believe that the safest solution for the Syrian crisis can only be achieved through negotiation and peaceful solution. In their opinion, Assad or his representatives should travel to Geneva, as well as the Syrian opposition represented by the National Coalition: both parties should sit at the same table and agree whether the former should hand the power to the latter or whether they should both participate in a transitional phase leading to free elections and thus will peace and harmony prevail in Syria.

Their biggest motivation is their growing concerns regarding Syria’s safety and unity so its bureaucracy and security won’t collapse, but rather, they believe that everyone would work in a sincere and dedicated way to achieve a real reform that satisfies the Syrian people... What I mentioned above are mere wishes that have nothing to do with the Syrian reality today; the state has collapsed and there is a real revolution rejecting the entire regime and all that is related to it. When did Arabs ever choose a moderate solution to their crises outside the ‘all or nothing’ attitude?

‘Punishing’

Everyone is talking about ‘narrow and limited attack’ on Syria. American politicians believe that it is ‘punishing’ and not ‘overthrowing’ those who committed a crime and used chemical weapons that are internationally banned. There is a difference between punishment and overthrow, but these are the Western and American positions that do not necessarily support the rebels in Syria, who want to topple the entire regime and build a brand new nation.

When did Arabs ever choose a moderate solution to their crises outside the ‘all or nothing’ attitude?

Jamal Khashoggi

These rebels will take advantage of the military strikes on the regime’s security junctions to move towards each barracks, airport and site they can control, and no one will blame them for that. Certainly some will support and train them; the Syrian units that have been trained and equipped in Jordan and Turkey by the U.S. army and its allies are already vested in this task. These units are affiliated to the Free Syrian Army, headed by Brigadier-General Salim Idris, and politically associated to the Syrian National Coalition headed by Ahmad al-Jarba. Both the FSA and Syrian National Coalition have the trust of regional and international powers.

One goal

Various military formations are also associated to the rebels under various names, such as Liwa al-Islam (Islam Brigade), Falcons of Sham and al-Tawhid brigade. Theoretically, they are all brigades within the Free Syrian Army, but in fact, they have independent leaders, tendencies, financing and different regional relations, but nevertheless, they all have one goal that is to overthrow the regime; there are some who even cooperate with the al-Nusra Front under this slogan.

These factions will make all the needed efforts to take advantage of these missile strikes and their consequences, which will certainly cause a state of severe confusion within the regime’s military units. Escape and defection cases are anticipated as well and thus, a complete collapse of the regime is to be expected, especially that the regime is definitely exhausted after two and a half years of war.

Therefore it is necessary to be prepared on the regional level for the day after the complete fall of the regime or its retreat to Alawite regions, which is the ‘Plan B’ as Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said. I think that this was some of what was discussed in the Jordanian capital last week by chiefs of staff of the countries concerned with the Syrian crisis. If securing chemical weapons and their warehouses are a common concern for the West and the regional countries, ensuring the reemergence of a safe and united Syria from the ashes and wars, is what the region should be obsessed with especially Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey.

The fall of Damascus

The one who will announce the fall of Damascus will be an unknown young man who will get all the press and media attention along with his colleagues, while waiting for opposition leaders to arrive.

It is then that the National Coalition will announce the start of the new transitional phase, and will outline its objectives and perhaps its duration. Jarba will call the state employees to stay in their jobs and serve their country, and perhaps he will also call on policemen to maintain security, but will the National Coalition be able to seize control over all Syria, with all the contradicted leftovers of Assad and all the war remnants such as parties, brigades, rivalries and hostilities?

Even if all the factions and local leaders put aside their ambitions and advantages, and accepted to be under the coalition wings, what will then happen to al-Nusra Front? What about the disastrous ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’?

Apparently, an Arab-Turkish peace force formed under the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation will certainly be a must. Its main function will be the protection of the difficult birth process for a new democratic Syria and thus will protect the region from collapse. It’s a new Middle East that will form by itself if necessary. This will be the second chapter of the Syrian saga that will reveal details that are as exciting and maybe as painful as the past two and a half years.

This article was first published in al-Hayat on August 31, 2013.


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Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels.

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