Assad, a president for another 20 years

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

There is talk of waiting for the Syrian presidential elections in spring 2014 to organize a conference on who will succeed Bashar al-Assad at the end of his term.

Whether or not there is a Geneva conference, be certain that the Syrian president does not intend to give up power willingly, leaving force as the only option.

This is a truth that was conveyed to the public upon his election when the Syrian People’s Council amended the Syrian constitution to decrease the age limit to allow Assad to run in the elections following the sudden death of his father.

Assad cannot give up voluntarily because he won the seat by force. For two years he has sat on 100,000 Syrian skulls and remains, displaced about five million Syrian citizens and transformed cities into dust in scenes the region has seldom witnessed.

So, can any reasonable person believe that a president like Assad could think of exiting the presidential palace because it’s time for the elections?

Learning from the past

When NATO jets violently shelled Qaddafi's forces in Libya and besieged them from all areas, it was said that Qaddafi would leave to Russia, South Africa or maybe even Venezuela.

Many delegates gathered to discuss finding a solution, saving Libya and Qaddafi, but the Libyan dictator wasn't thinking in the same way. He thought he was immortal and that he could stay. He thought he had back-up plans to take refuge at his tribes inside Libya and continue to be a ruler. This is why he appeared shocked when they caught him hiding in a drainage pipe.

Assad also thinks he's immortal and that he will stay in power for another 20 years. It's certain that he does not intend to exit the presidency, even if he has to come up provide a legal loophole or devise a deviant plan to stay in power.

The Geneva conference is a diplomatic necessity for everyone, the parties fighting in Syria, the mediators, the international and the regional powers. But it will not add anything new nor will it alter the future struggle in Syria.

Both fighting parties in Syria possess the ability, power and determination to fight. The issue of governance in Syria will not be finalized through political conferences. The only people capable of finding a solution are the fighters on ground.

Moreover, it is also impossible for the Syrian people to accept that the Assad regime could stay regardless of how much international legitimacy it attains from Geneva either by participating in the conference or by gaining more support from Iran or Russia.

Syria’s allies are aware of how costly this war is - for them and for others. The war will continue until the last bullets are fired from the opposition's rifles or until Assad's last breath. It all depends on who's eliminated first.

In Geneva, leaders will suggest that the Syrian opposition waits until next spring, that's another six months. Assad has to leave afterwards and a very mixed government will replace him. A real opposition, a fake opposition invented by the regime and leaderships from the regime. The political plan will be rejected because it doesn't make sense, after all that has happened that the Syrian fighters will accept the same regime to rule the country.

Assad knows that this is the certain result. The conference will fail, American suggestions will end and international pressure will decrease. As a result, Assad will remain at odds with the Syrian opposition. This scenario is very painful because it means that the world has allowed the tragedy to resume and that it has rewarded a criminal regime by allowing it to stay in power. However, this scenario grants the Syrians the chance to peacefully end what they've begun and what Assad turned into the most hideous war in the region's history.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Oct. 23, 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.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.