Syrians & Hard Task
السوريون والمهمّة الصعبة

Syrians & Hard Task

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Samir Seifan

The analysis of the regional and international political situation, in addition to the internal one, does indeed show a great contradiction between the complexity of the political scene surrounding the Syrian issue on the one hand, and the absence and ineffectiveness of the role of the Syrians on the other; even though it is their own cause and they are the ones who reap its negative and positive results. Thus, their fate is dominated by external players, serving their own interests.

The countries of the world seem exhausted of the Syrian issue and have become sick of seeking a solution. Driven into such an ordeal, those countries seem to head towards surrendering and accepting solutions that they did not favor before, and the survival of Assad and his regime may be the only alternative available to them. On the other hand, the world has become more preoccupied with the issues of the Corona virus, economic recovery and climate issues, and this was clearly reflected in the last meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, as Middle East files were always present in these meetings, but this year they there was no room for such issues.  Hence, this climate has adversely affected the international community’s interest in the Syrian issue, as well as the orientation of the United States’ attention eastward to Asia and China. All of this constitutes difficulties in moving the file of the Syrian issue in the forums of the major countries that are active in this file.

Despite this, there is a strong winning card for the Syrians that remains untapped, which is that their consent is necessary to complete any solution to the Syrian crisis; without it, there will be no final solution, as UNSCR 2254 states that “the Syrian people are the ones who decide the future of Syria.” There is no doubt that the Syrian people have the right to self-determination, whether this is mentioned in the Security Council resolution or not. This is a right that is not subject to any considerations or institutions other than Syria. However, there is a difference between the Syrians having a free will to decide their own destiny, or their “representatives” being forced to agree to a fate determined by others, and having their consent taken in different ways.

This situation creates a contradiction between the very difficult tasks that must be performed, and the poor capabilities that the Syrians possess, due to their continuing fragmentation and the absence of a large body representing their cause, since the official bodies that represent them, such as the Coalition(SOC) and the Negotiating Committee (SNC), were formed by a regional and international will, not Syrian, and remained under the great influence of other countries that embraced them, and this lost them the ability to take an independent decision. Moreover, they are not large political bodies, as they do not have material capabilities, nor do they have any authority over the armed opposition factions, which they never possessed, in addition to the many weaknesses in their formation and performance. Interestingly enough, the governments of the world, even the ones supporting the opposition, did not recognize the interim government, neither did they help it perform its tasks, and neither the factions that controlled large areas for years, nor the local administrations that were formed in these areas, have been able to present a successful model for administering these areas. As such, this makes the vital international actors in the Syrian file quite reluctant to either conclude agreements with the SIG and the SOC related to the future of Syria, or rely on them.

Nevertheless, the Coalition and the Negotiating Body are internationally recognized Syrian legal bodies, and they should not be neglected. Rather, work must be done to strengthen their role and develop their performance in order to gain greater confidence and credibility in the eyes of the Syrians and in the eyes of Arab, regional and international players.

The conditions for a solution based on a political transition are achieved when the Syrians, with the help of friends, can raise the Syrian issue to the top of the priorities of the active states, and form convictions with the need to find a solution in Syria now

Within this complex dilemma, the Syrians do have a major duty to work for their cause, but their situation does not help them do much work that produces a tangible impact and achieves positive change, as this is attributed for many reasons.

This difficult and complex situation requires the use of Syrian intelligence to produce great results with limited capabilities. Thus, the major goal is to push the active countries to work towards finding a political solution based on achieving a political transition without Assad and his regime. It is a big step that is not easy for actors to take, but it is worth working towards. Before defining the form of possible action, we must review the conditions for reaching a solution.

The conditions for a solution based on a political transition are achieved when the Syrians, with the help of friends, can raise the Syrian issue to the top of the priorities of the active states, and form convictions with the need to find a solution in Syria now:

That the United States be convinced that the continuation of instability in Syria has risks, and that it will keep it preoccupied with (ISIS), which will always re-emerge, it will keep Syria as a source of drugs to the countries of the world, and Syria will remain a base for Iran from which it will raise instability in the region, and this will constitute a threat to neighboring countries, and will raise Iran’s ambitions in the Gulf, which may create instability. And to be fully convinced that stability will not be achieved before an orderly political transition to a new post-Assad regime, even if parties from it participate in the new authority. In this context, it must continue imposing its sanctions, pressures, and presence east of the Euphrates, and veto normalization and reconstruction, until the Russians are convinced of a solution based on a political transition without Assad and his regime.

For Russia to be convinced that the continuation of the current situation in Syria means a political failure, and that it has risks to its interests, as the instability will continue, rather it will increase; where it will provide a negative model for Russia’s policies, and its financial bleeding will continue, as great political and economic opportunities and benefits that it can obtain if a possible political solution is achieved without Assad and his regime, and with the participation of parties from him in new authority; provided that this solution preserves Syria from collapse and chaos, restores stability, and preserves Russia’s interests in Syria.

For Turkey to be convinced that Iran’s control over Syria will make it a regional power point against Turkey, and make Iran on Turkey’s southern borders, and Syria is Turkey’s land route to the rest of the Arab countries; Turkey can persuade Iran to accept a political solution based on a real political transition beyond the Assad regime, and that the solution will end the risk of establishing a canton for the Turkish Kurdish PKK party in northern Syria.

For Iran to be convinced that it is not allowed to control Syria, that its pursuit of what it is doing will cost it a lot, and that the desired political solution preserves its interests in Syria, within reasonable and possible limits, and that the next regime will not be an enemy of Iran, nor will it be affiliated with it.

That Israel be convinced that Iran’s control over Syria will be a source of permanent threat to it, and that the continued instability in Syria and Lebanon will create major challenges that can be avoided by removing Iran from Syria; and when Iran moves away from Syria, it will weaken in Lebanon, and Hezbollah will then be forced to turn into a political party, instead of a Lebanese militia affiliated with Iran, and be forced to surrender its weapons.

That the Gulf states be convinced that Iran’s control of Syria would constitute a powerful Iranian arm, and that Iran would then be a source of real threat to the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia. In order to prevent this dangerous expansion, the Gulf states must unite their efforts and energies, and seek to support plans for political transition and bypass the Assad regime phase.

That Europe be convinced that the solution in Syria contributes to stability in the region, and contributes to the decline in the flow of refugees to it, with what it poses to the stability of the European interior itself, and contributes to the return of a significant part of the refugees to Syria, and that the survival of the Syrian situation in this state will be reflected negatively on their countries and their future.

That the vital countries involved in the Syrian file be convinced that the continuation of the Assad regime means continued instability, because it will remain a tool in the hands of Iran, and will remain a source of drugs` export to Europe, the Gulf and the rest of the world; as the threat of ISIS will remain, and it will reappear, and that the political transition is the right way to stop these dangers, and that the regime’s survival is the Iranian dam that impedes achieving stability in the region, and that achieving a solution in Syria has become an urgent humanitarian, political and economic issue.

The conditions for a political solution in Syria will be completed, when everyone is convinced that it is impossible, after all that has happened, for Syria to return to what it was before 2011, and for the regime that has ruled it since 1963 and then destroyed it and displaced its people, a regime that contradicts the semiotics of the times. The fact that al-Assad and his regime remain in power means continued instability in Syria and an increase in negative effects inside and outside Syria. The solution will only be achieved by achieving a political transition, expelling foreign armies and militias, ensuring Syrian unity, returning refugees, liberating detainees, revealing the fate of the missing, and achieving transitional justice; launching the reconstruction of Syria, ending the drug industry, and returning Syria to the international community in a constructive role, with international relations based on respect, not on subordination, submission and dependence. This will not be achieved with the survival of the Assad regime.

Only the United States is capable of forming all these convictions for everyone.

The required & Feasible Action

In order to move this deadly stalemate that threatens the unity and existence of Syria, within this complex situation, the Syrians must move, in an organized and convincing manner, to the Arab, regional and international players who control the Syrian file, overcoming the shortcomings of the past:

The first condition for opening the closed door in the face of any political solution in Syria will be the issuance of a Security Council Resolution amending the Geneva Communique and Resolution 2254. The  T.G.B, Transitional Governing Body – according to the Geneva Communique – will never be formed, and neither will it be formed according to Resolution 2254, because its formation is dependent on negotiations and a mutual agreement and consent of the opposition and the regime, as this agreement did not and will not happen, where ten years is more than enough for us to know that, this formula was designed to disrupt and buy time. The executable formula is the issuance of a UNSCR that mandates the United Nations to form the Transitional Governing Body with full powers, as it will be composed of 99 members, 33 of whom are nominated by the regime, 33 by the opposition, and the representative of the Secretary-General chooses the other 33, where each of the three parties takes into account to represent the various components of Syrian society and its various regions, and that it will be stipulated that it constitutes the leadership of the transitional period, where all legislative powers are transferred to it. It forms a government that assumes the executive authority, along with the formation of higher judicial council and an army staff, where current the government, the Supreme Judicial Council, and the staff are dissolved. Then a decision is issued to form this body from the Security Council or the Secretary-General of the United Nations, as a period of 36 months is given to address the existing situation, especially the issues of refugees, detainees and the disappeared, where a committee is formed to prepare a constitution to be put to a public referendum, and prepares the country for free elections, with the formation of a new governing authority and the start of a new phase. Hence, the resolution stipulates that sanctions imposed on Syria by any party be lifted, and reconstruction efforts begin immediately.

Launching an initiative to form a large, well-organized political body, with a strong presence where the Syrians are located, and receiving Syrian popular support, equipped with an extensive document specifying the principles and objectives of this initiative; as such an initiative shall have a name and address in Germany, so that it is not counted on a specific country, in order to keep this Body free from pressure, in a way that secures its independence, with an active website on the Internet and social networking outlets, along with a logo, and everything that makes it possess a distinctive identity, so that it can gradually expand to turn into a popular and weighty Syrian force. And that this initiative shall support and coordinate with the Coalition (SOC) and the Negotiating Body (SNC). What encourages such an initiative and helps in its success is the growth of awareness, among large sectors of the Syrian elite, of the need for joint institutional work, as there are many calls in this direction, coupled with a desire to work and join an organized institutional effort.

There is not enough time for the formation of a large political organization capable of playing large roles, which imposes itself on all players. But small groups of elites can gather from personalities who have good connections in the main countries that have an influence on the Syrian arena; groups of different stripes of moderates (moderate Islamists, moderate secularists, moderate liberals, moderate democrats, moderate nationalists) who come together with the goal of achieving a political transition in Syria beyond the Assad regime. And to launch an initiative for organized action, and to form working groups (from a few dozen voluntary actors) within a number of Syrian cities, and in each of the countries active in the Syrian file (Washington, Moscow, Ankara, Berlin, Paris, London, Riyadh, Doha). And to develop a program to communicate with parliamentarians, politicians, media professionals, academics, and human rights` activists and women’s organizations in their countries, to make the Syrian cause alive, and to organize coordinated activities and campaigns.

Adopting a political vision for an alternative future Syria, which begins with the unity of Syria, and defines the foundations of the desired Syrian state, a civil state for all its citizens, with a pluralistic democratic system that contributes to the stability of the region.

Drafting a vision for a political solution in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2254, that preserves the Syrian state and its institutions, restores Syria’s unity, and provides ideas for solutions to a large number of challenges facing any political solution in Syria, and they are many.

Develop a comprehensive political, military and negotiating strategy based on a realistic analysis of the possibilities of activity and the margins of movement, developing relations, consultation and networking with the active countries in the Syrian file, and coordinating to send messages similar in content from these parties to the US administration urging it to work hard to impose a political solution in Syria.

Develop a well-studied political and diplomatic program of activities and movement in the capitals of the active countries, move within a unified plan, coordinate especially with Syrian organizations in the United States, and communicate with the intent of influencing members of Congress, think tanks, and media institutions.

Expanded use of many new young Syrian cadres, which have become spread in a large number of countries active in the Syrian file.

Forming an English-language media arm, dealing with specific issues that affect Western public opinion, specifically American public opinion, in order to push the American administration to work hard to reach a political solution with the Russians.

Providing financial support to help establish a number of offices inside Syria, and in a number of capitals that are active in the Syrian file.

The solution with an American-Russian consensus

There will be no solution without a Russian-American consensus. The situation now between the United States and Russia is like a game of finger-biting. Russia, on the one hand, is awaiting the fatigue and surrender of the international community, and the leakage of conviction to accept the Assad regime within a solution shaped by the Security Council resolution, and its content is the decision of the Russian National Security Office, which gives the opposition consolation prizes. On the other hand, the Americans and Europeans are waiting for the Russians to get tired of the siege, Caesar’s law and the veto of normalization and reconstruction, and to hand them a political solution without Assad and his regime. The idea of a solution can be based on a deal by agreeing to issue a Security Council resolution, such as the one we mentioned above, and to lay out a plan for an organized political transition on its basis to a new regime within an agreed timetable, without Assad and his regime on the one hand, but with the participation of some of his parties; a solution that lifts sanctions on Syria and supports reconstruction. It produces great political and economic benefits for Russia, and Turkey will have a major role in making it successful, and blocking Iran’s efforts to corrupt it. Syria and its people will be the biggest winner.

Is what came above similar to a dream? Yes, this has become a dream, but it is a dream that the will of the Syrians can turn into a reality.

Hermon Center for Contemporary Studies

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