It is as if 100,000 people killed is not enough to justify international intervention in Syria’s brutal war. It is as if the dozens of attempts made to find a solution with President Bashar al-Assad, and his continuing resistance to ceding power, means nothing.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s stance supporting the Russian plan took many by surprise in the Arab world. The public opinion senses a dangerous change in the American government’s stance which adopted Russia’s and Iran’s positions. America’s move strengthened suspicions that it has completely retreated from its old stance of politically supporting the Syrian people.
Despite the angry feelings of most Arabs, this is also a huge mistake for at least one reason; the peace conference will fail to convince Bashar al-Assad of stepping down. Even if he appears convinced, he would only be maneuvering and lying by convincing others that he should stay until the end of his term next year, after which he will break his promises.
What is the value of a conference when it is impossible to convince Assad of immediately stepping down and when it is impossible to stop the revolution against him?Abdulrahman al-Rashed
For Assad and his Iranian allies, the conference is yet another scam, similar to that which he pulled with the international observers, Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi. This is his policy, misleading others as he awaits for some sort of change that turns the situation to his favor.
At the same time as the conference is being imposed on the Syrian opposition - which does not dare reject the conference for well-known reasons such as its need for international support - the regime will, during these months, expand its military operations to gain back liberated lands.
Accepting the Russian plan is a huge mistake because it grants hope to a besieged regime which supposedly must be further pressured and not given room to breathe! The regime will only make concessions amidst overpowering circumstances and it is only then that true peace can be established in Syria.
The value of the conference
What is the value of a conference when it is impossible to convince Assad of immediately stepping down and when it is impossible to stop the revolution against him? Both aspects are certain truths. Imposing the conference on the fighters will only increase anger and weaken moderate powers that will lose popular support. Thus, the winds will change and the public mood will shift in favor of extremist fighters.
Has anyone asked the question of what will happen when Russia imposes the idea of the partial departure of the regime by having Assad exit at the end of his term next year? How will it be possible to convince millions of Syrians to return to their homes and lives in a country run by suppressive security apparatuses? And who will believe that Assad will in fact step down next year? And who said that even if he does step down - which is almost impossible - his leaders, who committed the gravest of massacres in the region’s history, will leave with him?
The Russians appeal to everyone’s sentiment by speaking of maintaining the unity of Syria and maintaining the regime’s structure in order to prevent chaos and civil war. This is noble concept which we do not expect a man, one who uses warplanes, tanks, missiles and cannons to shell cities and towns on almost daily basis, to commit to. A few days ago, he set off booby-trapped car in a public market in Turkey. His forces still attack refugees and border towns with Jordan and still trespass Lebanon’s borders to kidnap and kill refugees. Are these the practices of a president willing to step down? What is the American interest in backing the Russians’ poisoned idea which will only further complicate the situation?
The Americans have either of two choices. Either support the Syrian majority that hates the regime and refuses to live under the shadow of Assad and his regime’s governance, or completely back off and let the Syrians handle their situation. To these Syrians, imposing the conference is a means to support Assad and not force him out.
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.