There is a huge difference between fear for Syria’s unity and of threats to divide it. This is not the first time that Russian Foreign Minister Sergi Lavrov has spoken in a threatening tone.
Russia’s rhetoric expresses Lavrov’s conviction that the support his country, as well as Iran, has paid to the Syrian regime is failing. This is why he wants to impose a political solution based on reconciliation, under the banner of the Geneva Agreement. The Russian-Iranian political project aims to convince the West to decline their support to the opposition until the end of Assad’s presidential term in May 2014. The act of waiting for his term to end is as if Assad had been elected in a legitimate manner in the first place! Afterwards, the Russians aim to hold elections that guarantee bringing the struggling parties together to form some sort of cabinet.
The Russian-Iranian project
The Russian-Iranian project can only achieve two things; dividing the opposition and sabotaging whatever is left of Syria. Thus, Minister Lavrov threatens the Syrians that if they reject a political solution, their country will be divided and sabotaged. The question is; what is left of the country’s unity? And what form of regime will the Russians, Iranians and Egypt’s Brotherhood vow to guarantee?
Russian Minister Lavrov threatens the Syrians that if they reject a political solution, their country will be divided and sabotagedAbdulrahman al-Rashed
The Syrians have few options. However, coexisting with the regime, or even parts of it, is not amongst these options. Such an act would keep the opposition busy and spark additional domestic strife, ultimately destroying whatever is left standing. The reasonable solution is accepting a peaceful transition that is sponsored and supervised by concerned countries, including Russia of course. The peaceful transition must stipulate the exit of the regime’s symbolic figures, particularly president Bashar al-Assad’s exit to Russia, Algeria, Iran, Baghdad or any other country of refuge that will support him. It is also acceptable to offer of international protection in areas where there are minorities who fear for themselves in the case of the regime’s collapse. The first of these minorities is the Alawite sect, which is a victim of the regime of late President Hafez al-Assad and his son, Bashar, who protected and supported the sect’s existence. In exchange for this international protection, the new state is granted protection from other parties like Hezbollah and the regime’s remnants.
We would advise U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry not to believe the Russian and the Iranian proposal, which is only based on American fear. Their proposal is based on imposing a political solution that aims to get rid of jihadist groups. However, what they are practically suggesting will expand the struggle and will strengthen terrorist organizations. That will certainly raise the anger of a majority of Syrians who forcefully accepted a solution after 100,000 people were killed, 5 million people were displaced and after the country was destroyed. The solution must go the opposite way. The international community must enable the majority to attain their political rights within a just democratic system. This means eliminating Assad immediately and not a year later.
Stalling the Opposition
Lavrov’s project, which it seems the Americans are unfortunately backing, imposed an impossible political partnership. It also imposed the obstruction of the opposition’s progress until the middle of next year. The first of those who suggested this idea were the Iranians. They suggested it under the excuse of preventing sectarian strife and controlling the domestic situation. This is closer to insanity because it achieves the aims of the Iranian regime as it prevents the establishment of a new Syrian state that threatens their interests. Lavrov has become the Iranians’ voice. He aims to keep Syria in chaos and chronic struggle.
The Iranians’ ideas are always based on spreading chaos and supporting terrorism. The Iranians’ idea is to always plant chaos and terrorism to scare the people into supporting them. It is as if Assad is the forfeit in the game of terrorism and chaos! All of this is for the sake of ending Western military support in order to prevent the opposition from progressing, especially after Russia and Iran failed on the military level. Their ally, Assad, has become a corpse in his own castle. He plays the role of a president in a play exaggeratedly performed. He has increased his media appearances and visits. He even recently visited a power station, for the first time in his life, to tell people that he is alive and actually present whilst the capital has become a ghost town.
The Russians know that for two years, the Americans have been observing what is happening on the ground via satellite. The Americans certainly desire the collapse of the regime of their rival, Assad - the ally of their enemy- Iran. But the idea that there are jihadist groups operating as an alternative to Assad worries them. Now the Iranians are through the Russians playing this “sensitive chord” against the Americans. They thus warn that chaos and terrorism will spread in Syria, when in fact it is considered that for two years now, Syria has been in a state of chaos and terrorism. The truth is, suppressing the revolting majority will make it impossible to achieve any stability. Subsequently, terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda will find themselves many allies for the first time in the region’s history.
Toppling Assad and supporting moderate opposition groups will achieve the certain result of establishing a new Syria.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 9, 2013.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the 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.