Despite frustrations, a light shining at the end of the tunnel suggests that the end of the Assad regime is nigh. The 1,400 Syrians who suffocated to death in the suburbs of Damascus sped up the regime's decline. The plan of ridding it of its strategic weapons practically rids it of governance under an expanded slogan dubbed “the peaceful solution.”
Since approximately two weeks ago, there have been talks of a peaceful solution stipulating that Bashar al-Assad exits power at the end of the current year, five months before the date of the presidential elections. It's said that eliminating Assad was a decision made by the Russians following the chemical weapons crime which pushed the Americans for the first time to threaten of carrying out a punitive measure. It's due to this crime that there's an international front currently willing to participate in a military solution.
Good news or bad news?
It's only through battlefield gains that it can direct the path of the political solution.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
The Syrian crisis is getting more complicated and as it's said: “It must get worse before it gets better.” The situation regarding Syria is complicated on several levels. It's complicated on the level of relations between politicians and the diplomats with several roles, the Russian and the American and the American president and Congress. There is also the problematic public opinion in Europe, particularly in Britain, rejecting any military operation. There are also Arab pressures. A third Arab effective front has been born out of Saudi, Jordan and the UAE and its officials have been back and forth from Moscow to Paris to London. Let's not forget that Obama has seemingly “woken up” and promised to resort to utilize his power for the first time since he assumed presidency. Then Russia surprised us with its proposal that Assad give up his massive storage of chemicals – the same storage which Assad has denied to possess.
Several political developments happened as a result of what happened in Syria. They weren't only a result of the massacre of chemical weapons. But I think they were also a result of Bashar al-Assad's failure in winning the war despite the massive military support he's received for more than nine months from Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Iraqi factions. All that Assad has achieved is to regain a few towns like Qusayr, whilst most of Syria remains outside of his troops' control. At the same time, the Arab, French and British alliance politically and militarily supporting the opposition has increased.
We tell the opposition what football coaches usually say: “remain focused on the ball” because everything happening in the court may distract the player from the main target. The target is toppling Assad and not punishing him and this possibility has become closer. As a result, Assad will try to distract the world with several tricks as he now stands at the edge of the abyss, pushed by the FSA. It has now become possible to topple him using the weapon of the “peaceful solution.” The opposition is angry because the Assad regime won't be targeted with a punitive strike, but, it shouldn't be angry because the target is bigger than that. The opposition must demand that Assad be ousted, not that 100 Tomahawk missiles be fired against him. If the Russians accept the solution of Assad's departure, then this means victory for the Syrian revolution.
What's expected is that the “Yemeni solution” will be suggested and that Assad and his comrades will be ousted. In this case, current institutions, particularly the army, along with the political and military opposition leaderships, will be assigned to manage the country. This is a good option that ends with gradually toppling the regime without destroying the country. The worst option is that Assad escapes during the next few months. In this case, fighting will continue among the FSA, independent revolutionary parties, al-Qaeda affiliated groups, sectarian militias supported by Iran and other parties. Maintaining institutions means maintaining the state, not the regime. It means maintaining the country's unity and guaranteeing the attainment of international, political, military and legal support.
In order for the armed opposition not to lose its case during the negotiations of superpowers in Geneva, its major task remains in winning the war because its victories are what will force all parties to accept it as a major player. It's only through battlefield gains that it can direct the path of the political solution.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on September 16, 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.