Turning Point In Syrian Crisis – OpEd


By Mohieddin Sajedi

Syria’s acceptance of the Arab League plan has ushered the country into a totally new phase which is also irreversible. The success of Syria’s political system will depend on full implementation of the plan and to bridge the gap between the government and the opposition.

There are still doubts about feasibility of the plan. Some opposition figures have rejected it as, they say, it will help Bashar al-Assad to remain in power. Syria has been given only 15 days to implement the plan.

Stopping the violence, releasing people who have been detained over recent unrests, withdrawal of the army from cities and residential areas, and allowing organizations affiliated to the Arab League as well as Arab and international media to observe the situation in Syria are among five major provisions of the plan. If the Syrian government lives up to these provisions, a special ministerial committee will be formed by the Arab League to enter into negotiation with the Syrian government and the opposition groups and arrange for a national dialogue in two weeks.

The Arab League had originally proposed the dialogue between the Assad government and the opposition to be held under its supervision in the Egyptian capital city of Cairo. Syria, however, rejected the offer and insisted that the dialogue should take place in Damascus. The final version of the plan remained silent on the location of the dialogue.

Syria was said to have objected to the supervision of the Arab League over the dialogue, but it was later announced that the two sides had not discussed the location of the dialogue or how it should be supervised.

The Syrian government has reportedly formulated a plan to get the army out of the cities and proclaim general pardon on the occasion of Eid ul-Adha. The Syrian government has also given a one-week deadline to armed groups to lay down arms and avail themselves of the general pardon. Meanwhile, the US State Department has asked the opposition to reject the government’s offer. Washington’s reaction has led to a decisive question, “Is the United States trying to manage the crisis in Syria?”

By accepting the Arab League plan, Bashar Assad started an irreversible path. The plan will cost him dearly. The opposition will not wait for him to carry out the purported reforms in due time and will call for immediate reforms, transfer of power from the Baath party, trial of those who have killed people, and holding of new elections.

External guarantees from the Arab League are necessary for the implementation of the plan. Turkey is helping armed groups opposing Assad. They insist on the continuation of the armed struggle against the Syrian government. The governments of France and the US have been skeptic about the Arab League initiative. The Syrian government expects the plan to put an end to the country’s economic embargo which entered into force by the United States and the European Union.

The Arab League plan is Assad’s last chance of survival. He, not the opposition which is basking in unbridled support of the international and Arab communities as well as regional, the Western and European powers, will be held accountable for possible failure of the plan.

If the plan fails, Arab League will have to resort to the United Nations. In that case, it would be difficult for Russia and China to oppose a Security Council resolution which will be supported by Arab League.

The Middle East issues mean more to Russia and China than bilateral relations or military and economic contracts and they take an international approach to the developments in the region. Both Moscow and Beijing have lent their support to the Arab League initiative. In case of Yemen, the Russian government did its best to prevent such phrases as “supporting the people” to be included in the Security Council’s resolution so that NATO could not use it as an excuse as it did to justify military intervention in Libya.

Failure of the plan will provide Turkey and the West with a good opportunity to provide the Assad opposition with arms and trigger a civil war. Everybody will then blame Assad for that war. He will be also the target of heavy Western and international media propaganda.

Anyway, the crisis of Syria has entered a new phase. If Assad had accepted the plan on the basis of his own abilities as well as massive street demonstrations staged by his supporters in big cities and his trust in the inability of the opposition, then he would be able to weather the current dire straits and regain control of the situation.

The Syrian police are expected to gradually replace the military in the cities. The number of the new trained forces that is to take over in blue uniforms has been given to be at 4,000.

Syria lacked adequate riot police and the army soldiers were not experienced in handling street unrests. As a result, they made many mistakes to which Assad has owned up in a number of interviews.

Syria will change in any case, even if Assad manages to continue his current presidential term to the end. The possibility that he will see a new term in office is very remote. The new Syria will see a plural and multi-party system which will keep its distance from regional issues for a while as a result of the new domestic problems.

Press TV

Press TV is a state funded news network owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). Its headquarters are located in Tehran, Iran and seeks to counter a western view on news.

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