The idea behind bringing Syria’s war to an end
There is no victor or loser in this Syrian crisis which has begun to spin out of control and expand beyond its borders
There is no victor or loser in this Syrian crisis which has begun to spin out of control and expand beyond its borders. It has deeply impacted the world which is supposed to be governed in accordance with international laws. This inability has pushed superpowers to do what we witness today – resorting to negotiations of the “non-solution.”
I saw a footage of the Syrian regime delegation at the entrance to the hall set up for negotiations in Geneva. The opposition delegation comprised of members approved by the parties that previously opposed its formation. It wasn’t difficult to conclude that these negotiations will not achieve real results and will not end the war.
As far as the mediators succeeding in convincing the two sides to sit across the table, it only suggests that their skills remained limited to this end. Each party was convinced to engage in negotiations on the premise that it will not be forced to accept what it does not want. In exchange, they will allow a series of measures such as truce and humanitarian initiatives.
The mediator succeeded in stopping the fighting or at least decreasing its intensity, exchanging some prisoners and delivering aid to those besieged on both the sides. These are significant achievements which international mediator Steffan De Mistura has indeed managed to ensure. However, they don't lead to resolution of the conflict.
The state’s stability is a condition for federalism and Syria is no longer a state run by institutionsAbdulrahman al-Rashed
In order to convince them to go to Switzerland and sit on the negotiating table, the Syrian regime was told that Bashar al-Assad’s departure is no longer an American condition and that the opposition has been told that the Russians no longer object to them becoming part of governance. This is why the initiative worked, but I think the negotiations will not reach a conclusion because they do not have a major plan to end the crisis.
The Iraq model
Mediators may once again suggest the idea of restructuring of the regime in which Assad remains the head of state but without executive powers and the premiership be granted to the opposition while promising it expanded jurisdictions. This is almost similar to the model the Americans designed in Iraq. Of course no one believes promises, specifically that Assad will settle with protocol-related jurisdictions.
Over various rounds of negotiations, we have witnessed radical changes being made to the ideas suggested. To begin with, the idea was for Assad to give up power completely. Then came the idea of Assad exiting power following a transitional phase of 18 months and elections to form a hybrid regime. Finally there is the suggestion that the criminal stays in power with the victim, so it is Assad and the opposition.
Suggestions have also been made to divide Syria entirely. However, this has been rejected by the Syrians and a number of countries in the region. It is also not easy to implement such a solution even if it is approved. Recently, there has been talk of a federal solution but I don’t know to what extent it may suit the current circumstances. The state’s stability is a condition for federalism and in Syria there is no longer a state run by institutions. This solution suits a regime that needs internal administrative arrangements and not a country in a state of war.
Can any of the previous solutions be implemented, assuming superpowers will support any? Those who understand the nature of the conflict are well-aware that it is impossible to reach a solution in which Assad and the opposition are together. What may be possible is engaging the opposition in the regime’s hierarchy but without the regime’s senior leaders, particularly Assad. Syria is not Yugoslavia where a division was possible due to ethnic components, which may be divided.
If negotiations are just a distraction to stop the war then just keeping them busy with negotiations will not maintain peace for long.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Mar. 23, 2016.
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. He tweets @aalrashed