The political project behind Geneva II

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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You must all attend the Geneva II conference as we will be discussing issues of governance, military and security in Syria’s transitional phase. This is what the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman advised the Syrian opposition as it came under intense pressure for its rejection to attend the conference. Feltman, who is one of the most knowledgeable persons about Syria’s situation, says that the conference is important as it will decide the nature of the new Syria and will discuss all the executive powers of the transitional governing group in Syria, which will be established by the Geneva II conference, such as who will gain control of the army and the security forces. Feltman told newspaper al-Hayat that the conference aims at launching a political process led by Syria, “not to administer the current situation, but to institute a new Syria.”

As for the presidency of the Syrian National Coalition and most of its members, they are aware that their absence will allow the Syrian regime to win the political battle. It would be difficult to correct agreed upon outcomes of the conference if they do not take part. The leadership of the Syrian opposition is facing a strong campaign, led by different opposition parties, that deliberately embarrasses and urges the opposition not to participate. This is the result of political rivalry within the opposition and not really because the conference itself is being rejected. They have resorted to accusations of treason that have spread lately. Some opposition factions started questioning the opposition’s right to participate without authorization! There are angry and desperate groups that do not want to participate in any political process, but at the same time do not suggest any plausible alternative, which they are capable of proposing.

Recent political moves

The Syrian opposition wanted to set a time limit of three months for such a political process to take place so that international opponents, such as the Russians, will not take advantage and turn it into a never-ending, time-wasting, game. But the Americans did not want to be restricted by a deadline.

The road will not be easy, especially as there is a renewed intention to form an opposition coalition with its own armed factions

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Despite all these disappointments, the opposition can still withdraw when it believes that time has been wasted to no avail, or when it feels that the course of the negotiations is not in the interest of the Syrian people and their expectations. Although the opposition did not receive any guarantee before sitting down at the conference table, it still benefited from the fact that the Geneva 1 and 2 conferees have recognized the coalition’s right to represent the opposition, as it embodies “the basis and the core” of the opposition. This will not give opportunity for the fake opposition created by the Syrian regime and promoted by the Iranians.

The road will not be easy, especially as there is a renewed intention to form an opposition coalition with its own armed factions to promote its position as a representative of all forces on the ground.

What Feltman is saying is true in terms of the need to participate and not disregard this occasion on which major international forces will meet to discuss the fate of Syria. The opposition has to convince its allies, such as the Gulf countries, of their need for increased military support so that Assad’s army won’t make ground advancements over the next few months. Obstructing his military abilities will mean that Assad’s negotiating position will be limited.

The situation in Syria will play an important role during the negotiations at Geneva II. President Assad recently expressed intentions of running for president again, which means that he intends to intensify fighting, something we have noticed recently.

This article was first published in al-Sharq al-Awsat on Oct. 26, 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.

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