Discovering MENA: A Glimpse of Hope for Syria?


The Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the one and only body considered representative of the Syrian opposition by the international community (despite its lackluster state and problems with the rebels on the ground, many of them refusing to recognize its authority and rejecting the idea of negotiations) has agreed to participate in peace talks with the regime to take place in Geneva – what pundits like to call “Geneva 2 talks”.

The helter-skelter body has, however, outlined certain conditions for its attendance that would prove the Syrian regime’s goodwill and predisposition, particularly a guarantee that relief agencies would be given access to deliver humanitarian assistance and that political prisoners would be released. In this sense, many considered as a very good omen a deal whereby a blockade on the rebel-held town of Qudsaya, near Damascus, will be eased.

The Jun. 30, 2012 Communiqué that will, in principle, be seen as a foundation for this round of talks called for an immediate cessation of violence and the establishment of a transitional government. The text did not mention the need for Assad to step down, and even foresaw that this government could include regime officials, those “with blood on their hands”.

Aware of its much stronger position, the current Syrian government has rejected any preconditions for the Geneva talks. Nonetheless, the SNC’s statement reiterates demands that President Bashar al-Assad step down in any transitional government. The decision to insist on this point may actually be one of the worst by the Syrian opposition.

For starters, the Syrian regime has repeatedly insisted that any political solution will not involve Assad’s departure. On the other hand, given the current situation both on the ground and in the international arena, Assad looks today more unlikely to go than ever. As a matter of fact, the Assad regime seems to be increasing its grip on parts of the country.

More and more Syrians from both sides realize the main aim has become blunting the violence in a country that might not be ready to endure a “Lebanonization” but might turn into a failed state. A country where hunger and disease are on the rise, entire cities and towns have been destroyed and more than nine million people have been displaced from their homes.

If violence is to stop, any comprehensive, sensible proposal should at least forget about Assad and instead focus on convincing members of the current regime (both in the government and in the security forces) that retributive justice won’t be resorted to.

Compromise and reassurances will be needed from both sides, who fear that the side winning this all-out war will have no mercy towards anyone related, even in the slightest, with its enemies. Allowing Assad to preside over a transition and then decline to run for re-election would mean the President has saved Syria from jihadists, as he has claimed since the onset.

Against this background, the international community should adopt a proactive stance, if they are to show they do not have vested interests in the continuation of this war. One of its first measures should address the Syrian opposition itself: Recognizing the SNC might have been a necessary first step, but nowadays the SNC is in its weakest state ever.

Efforts should be made to thrust diplomats, politicians, soldiers and civilians to the table in order to build a comprehensive, representative entity capable of representing the true wishes of those who first took to the streets back in 2011.

It seems highly likely that Syria will long remain divided among areas dominated by jihadist fighters (that nowadays kill not only Syrian soldiers but also rebels), FSA/moderate elements of the opposition and a transitional government (the latter may even come to terms) and the Kurdish in their increasingly autonomous territory.

Most Syrians aware of this fact have grown exhausted of seeing people die without any apparent reason, and a huge majority has drawn its conclusion. Is forcing Assad to step down really worth it, especially since achieving this could entail fighting a new civil war against the foreign-dominated Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the likes?


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