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Bashar Assad Wants Syria Without Him To Be In ‘Hell’ – OpEd

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By Khalid Al-Dakhil

Is there a possibility of a political solution that provides a way out of the crisis in Syria?

News reports in the last few days indicate that there is a possibility for this solution. After a visit to Damascus last week, and a meeting with President Assad and the team of the National Coordination Committee (the opposition inside Syria), Lakhdar Brahimi, the Arab and international peace envoy, stated that the solution requires the formation of a transitional government with full authority. He also said that his visit to Russia is to move the positions of both the Syrian government and the internal opposition in favor of this proposal.

Prior to Brahimi leaving Damascus, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad went to Moscow.

Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad

Meanwhile, the Russian government called on the leadership body of the National Coalition (opposition abroad) to go to Moscow to negotiate the same idea. In a statement to Syrian newspaper Al Hayat, Hassan Abdul Azim, coordinator of the National Coordination Committee, highlighted what has been said about the results of these moves: “Brahimi carries to the US and Russian sides the approval of the Syrian regime on four points that begin with stopping the violence, the release of detainees and prisoners, ensuring the relief work, and then forming a transitional government with full authority to end the status quo by holding parliamentary and presidential elections.”

What Abdul Azim stated is remarkable, especially because it is he who met with Brahimi in Damascus, and his statement conveys what they said during that meeting.

Thus, was Miqdad’s trip to Moscow to share his government’s approval on Brahimi’s points? Russian sources say, according to the Al Hayat newspaper, that Miqdad’s goal of the visit was to convey his reservations about Brahimi’s proposals, which means that the Syrian president did not accept at least all of these proposals.

Given that the meaning of “a transitional government with full authority” is a full transfer of these powers from President Assad to the new government, what will be the fate of the Syrian president in this case? Will he remain in office during the transition period as honorary president without powers, or he will have to step down? Abdul Azim’s response to these questions is that the “survival of Assad in power during the transitional period is still being debated.”

This is the core of the issue, which pulls everything back to square one. If the Syrian government has agreed to Brahimi’s proposals, why have they not declared this position formally? Or why did Brahimi himself not make a declaration after his meeting with President Assad and the internal opposition?

It is also said that Brahimi’s movement is supported by the US-Russian understanding. This understanding will result in a decision by the Security Council under Chapter VI, which commits the government and the opposition to comply with and implement what is agreed upon by the mission. There is silence about these movements from the US, a silence that justifies what appears to be a paralyzed US State Department because of the illness of Hillary Clinton, and her pending resignation, and the potential approval of the US Senate to install new Secretary of State John Kerry. The truth is that America’s silence reflects Washington’s position, which is not to hurry.

Washington’s attention in the Syrian issue is not on Damascus, but on Tehran, and its fear is for Tel Aviv, not Syria. In contrast, there are remarks by the Russians, particularly by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, which are all intended to emphasize the necessity of a political solution as the only way out for all parties.

While the remarks suggest that Moscow does not care too much about the fate of Assad, Lavrov has not grown tired of emphasizing that Assad’s departure should not be a precondition for dialogue between the government and the opposition.
The question here is this: With the current system, is it possible to reach a political solution that begins the transition run by an interim government with full authority, and ends with a democratic system? All those who are loyal and passionate to the Syrian people are hopeful that even something close to this can be realized, but the fact is that there are serious obstacles facing such a solution.

The first of these obstacles, and the most serious, is the Syrian regime itself, which does believe in internal political solutions — especially with regard to the issue of governance — and which is not originally established enough to deal with such solutions.
To the Syrian regime, a political solution regarding its governance transition is a form of conspiracy. Regardless of what form this solution takes, what its goals and intentions are, and what parties sponsor it, it will ultimately lead to the erosion of the regime, and to its replacement. Assad knows this very well, but he is unable to publicly announce his rejection of it.

He can delay the solution, block its inception, and circumvent it in every possible way. The last of these means brought us back again to “internal national dialogue” under the umbrella of the regime, making it more likely that the task of Miqdad in Moscow is to convince them of the usefulness of this dialogue.

The strategy of the regime since the beginning of the revolution has not changed: Breaking the military revolution and buying more time to achieve this. Moscow would not mind such, but it realizes that this goal is continuously fading alongside the successes of the armed opposition on the ground. In spite of this reality, Moscow does not stop from trying to convince the opposition to accept dialogue. What is strange is that the Russians do not realize, or so it seems, that this position does not keep their credibility intact. The regime forces have pounded cities using Russian aircraft and missiles, and hundreds have fallen dead each day, but all Moscow can say in front of all of this is call the opposition for dialogue with the regime, which means surrendering to the security solution. The Russian position at the moment resembles that of Iran.

The other obstacle is Assad. He came to power through inheritance from behind the scenes of the security services. He has no political history or achievements besides only being known as the son of Hafez Assad; therefore, he has no legitimacy of his own that can be relied on. The revolution exploded in his face, as he is still a prisoner of this legacy.

It is more likely that he is dreaming of eliminating the revolution, because if he is able to do that, or able to adopt it, he will be then able to re-establish the regime according to his dimensions and the dimensions of his alliances with Iran and Russia. With this achievement, he will establish a legitimacy derived from his steadfastness and his accomplishments and thus, he can get rid forever of the disadvantage of the inheritance and being dependant on the legacy of his father.

Assad’s acceptance of a political solution to end with his withdrawal means that he utterly failed in everything, especially in maintaining the rule he inherited, and entrusted to him by his father.

The Initiative by itself, as it seems, is the source of its failure. It is a cold initiative that ignores all the blood spilled, and the destruction of cities by the regime forces. The mystery of the fate of Assad in this initiative is the index of its failure, and is an indication that it is not yet complete.

This ambiguity undermines the optimism implicated in the statement of Abull Azim. Also, the refusal of the internal armed opposition and the opposition abroad to any solution that does not begin with stepping down of Assad and his regime’s officials is not only a natural position, but also the minimum position on this stage.

During the writing of this article, Lavrov announced after talks with Brahimi that Assad insists on staying in power, and this also as it seems is a summary of what he heard from Miqdad and Brahimi. For his part, Brahimi said “either a political solution or hell.”



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Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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