Bashar al-Assad’s fate: Is a ‘face-saving’ deal in play?
Assad has no place in a post-war Syria, but his replacement has to be decided during a transitional period
Recent meetings of key international and regional players have contributed to an emerging sense that the Syrian war is finally on track for resolution after almost five years. A well-informed Syrian opposition source told me that a framework for a political and mutually acceptable solution to the crisis is in the making. On the fate of President Bashar al-Assad, the source said: “A face-saving formula is being drafted.”
Washington has toned down talk of Assad’s departure over the last year. In March, Secretary of State John Kerry said the White House would have to negotiate with Assad for a political transition in Syria.
Assad has no place in a post-war Syria, but his replacement has to be decided during a transitional period by the warring parties, including the Russian-backed regimeRaed Omari
Following dismay over this comment, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf quickly issued a clarification: “There has always been a need for representatives of the Assad regime to be a part of this process. It has never been and would not be Assad who would negotiate.”
Harf’s statement lies at the heart of the current U.S. vision of a negotiated political solution for Syria in which the Assad regime, rather than the man himself, is a component. Assad’s departure is not as much a priority for Washington as is the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
In order to avoid repeating the mistakes of Iraq and Libya following the ousters of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi respectively, U.S. policy on Syria is centered around keeping the state’s institutions intact.
As such, the Assad regime – not the man – is what matters. The U.S. rebel-training program, and its anti-ISIS coordination with Jordan and Turkey, are components of its new policy on Syria whereby moderate rebels will be trained to fight ISIS rather than the regime.
Assad has no place in a post-war Syria, but his replacement has to be decided during a transitional period by the warring parties, including the Russian-backed regime.
To avoid more tension with Russia and Iran, a veteran U.S. politician told me that the White House is studying two face-saving scenarios for Assad: either he leaves office within a transitional solution; or he remains in office until his term ends, without being allowed to run in the next presidential election. However, that may not be accepted by Syrian rebels, especially the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
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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