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The key to a solution in Syria is in the Gulf

Gulf states know it is suicide to leave Syria to the Iranian regime, which is expanding in their region like cancer

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has intensified his efforts in recent days to hold the promised Geneva conference, is trying to attain concessions that eventually - and following a long journey of negotiations - will lead to a political solution to the Syrian tragedy.

This is a noble task, but insisting on marginalizing the real nationalistic Syrian opposition and accepting that Bashar al-Assad stay as president will only yield failure, even if a preliminary agreement is signed in the upcoming negotiations.

Gulf states know it is suicide to leave Syria to the Iranian regime, which is expanding in their region like cancer

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

No solution can be accepted if Gulf states and Turkey do not support it, as they are the only ones that most Syrians trust because these countries have stood by them from the start of their ordeal. Therefore, the key to the solution is in the Gulf and in Turkey, not in Geneva.

It does not make sense for these countries to sign and defend a deal that keeps Assad in power. Most of the Arab world will reject this because it considers him the worst criminal the region has known. Gulf states know it is suicide to leave Syria to the Iranian regime, which is expanding in their region like cancer.

U.S. complicity

Perhaps it is useful to remind Kerry what the picture looks like from the Arab angle. The United States has lifted sanctions against Iran, and granted it access to $50 billion in long-frozen assets. They are cooperating militarily in Iraq, and Washington is turning a blind eye to Tehran’s management of multinational militias fighting in Syria.

The United States not only accepts to deal with the Assad regime, but also keeps silent over Iran’s forgery of the Syrian opposition, as it wants to impose a list of figures and parties that it claims are opponents of the Syrian regime, when in fact they are part of it. In other words, Assad would be negotiating with himself through them. In the history of conflict resolution, we have never known of a party telling the other party who should represent it.

Even if they drag the opposition all the way to the river, they will not be able to force it to drink from it. If a deal that stipulates the formation of a unity government is signed, like Tehran hopes, it will not even be able to collect trash - let alone stop the fighting, gather arms, work on refugees’ return home and foster national reconciliation - as no one will recognize its legitimacy.

However, the Syrian people may still be forced to accept a government in which a regime they hate is included. They may do so out of their desire for peace, but it makes no sense to ask them to accept that the man who murdered more than a third of a million people continues to govern them. I rule out the possibility of Gulf governments and Turkey accepting such a solution, as they know it will only escalate war in the region.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Jan. 27, 2016.
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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former 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.