Syria is fated to remain a subject of guesswork. No doubt, Syria is ultra-complicated from inside, yet its ongoing war’s complication has proved to be imported from outside more than being domestically produced. Yes, it is much better on Syria to resort to destiny, mysticism and surrealism when man’s involvement is difficult to comprehend.
The Geneva I and II peace conferences on Syria both proved a failure – a big failure indeed – yet, the widely adopted narrative on the war-torn country now, even in the U.S., is in favor of a political solution to Syria’s three-and-a-half-year war. If the high-profile Geneva gathering on Syria, when the crisis elements were less sophisticated, failed to at least lay down the base for a political solution, I wonder how such far-reaching goal can be achieved now with the many complications entering the scene every day in Syria.
Militarily speaking, longtime adversaries are acting like allies in the war in Syria and IraqRaed Omari
Politically, at the time Geneva II conference was convened, the formula on Syria was a bit simpler: two camps supporting the two major warring parties in Syria the regime and the opposition. Now “who is supporting who” and “who is fighting who” in Syria is just difficult to make out. In January 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was still at the militia level. Now it is a self-claimed state, a Caliphate, requiring a world coalition to eliminate it. More importantly, when the enemies and friends met in Switzerland, Iraq was not in a state of war. In other words, the Syrian war cannot be solved or even discussed aside from the situation in Iraq. This is a huge complication. From January to now, the “political bargaining” on Syria has grown more fierce. The political gains from Syria are being ferociously fought for by not only the U.S. and Russia but Turkey and Iran. Remarkably enough, the U.S. seems to be the least interested competitor. Iran’s nuclear program, Hezbollah and Turkish-Russia gas have turned into integral components of the Syrian crisis.
Militarily speaking, longtime adversaries are acting like allies in the war in Syria and Iraq. Iran, the U.S. foe, has been reportedly launching airstrikes against ISIS, Washington’s enemy. Western-allied Turkey is seeking an alliance with Russia amidst reports about Ankara turning blind eye to ISIS. Washington’s Arab allies Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE and Egypt are lost in this scene. Of course politics is not black and white; it is indeed pragmatic. It is understood that in politics my friend today can be my enemy tomorrow. However, the question is how the Syrian dilemma is going to be resolved within such interrelated mapping of interests. Certainly, drafting a political solution to the Syrian war will be very challenging as it needs to be worded, modified, adjusted and readjusted to fit into such difficult-to-decode formula.
Humanitarianly, from Geneva II until now, the large-scale suffering of the Syrian people has doubled, tripled or quadrupled, reaching unbearable limits. The U.N.’s World Food Program has suspended its food voucher program serving almost two million Syrian refugees due to lack of funding crisis. Host countries Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are complaining about their inability to cope with the refugee influx from Syria. Their narrative on the refugee crisis has changed significantly. It is now in the form of complaint.
Political, military and humanitarian complication
In brief, the Syrian crisis has reached a high level of political, military and humanitarian complication, definitely all due to the international community’s inaction on the war-torn country. With circumstances now being ultra-complicated more than those before the failed Geneva II, the narrative now on Syria advocates a political solution. President Obama has been said to be now more supportive of a political solution to Syria’s war. The same applies to Russia, Iran and many members of the Friends of Syria Group. But no one has provided a clue on how to solve Syria’s war politically. Most of their preaching-like statements take the form of cliché or rhetorical assertions on the need to end the Syrians’ suffering. But still no clue on how is given. A political solution to Syria’s war means by nature a transition period agreed upon collectively by the warring parties there. But which parties do they mean? Are they the Syrian regime vs. the Free Syrian Army (FSA)? The U.S., France and Britain still stress that President Bashar al-Assad has no place in future Syria. Do they really mean it? Maybe in statements but their actions say otherwise.
“At least for moral reason, we can’t deal with a regime that has killed 200,000 of its people,” this is what I was once told by a high profile Western diplomat. Yet the U.S. can’t be said to put any pressure on Assad in line with its announced policy on the embattled president. Plus, the departure of Assad is an irreversible demand of the FSA, yet can the Syrian opposition’s military arm really be seen as a Western-allied body to have its demand realized by Washington? I doubt it. Assad’s fate, the key element in the Syrian war, is certainly no longer a domestic matter. It will be decided depending on bargaining over Hezbollah, Iraq and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
But it is not that difficult to draft a political solution to Syria’s war anyway. All it requires is real intention and respect of the Syrian people’s aspirations, suffering and demands. The situation in Syria cannot be the same as before March 2011. The Syrian people have passed a point of no return and cannot replicate their past again. Such realizations have to be in the background while drafting a political solution on Syria.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via email@example.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2
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