Publishe Date: 11:21 AM - 8/30/2012 | Print

Damascus’ Middle-Way Solution

Politics - In his recent visit to Moscow, Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister, Qadri Jamil, said that the government of Syria is ready to negotiate the resignation of the incumbent President, Bashar al-Assad, during the process of talks with the oppositions. This development is in itself, a turning point in the Syrian government’s policy.

As the Syrian crisis lingers on in time, various dimensions of it continue to increase, becoming clear that the crisis cannot be solved with current “maximalist” demands of each of the parties involved in the crisis. This reality has been highlighted as it bears inevitable importance in finding a “mid-way” solution that will take the interests of all involved parties into account.

The Syrian crisis has three levels of engagement. First, domestically, in which the opponents and proponents of the Syrian regime pit against each other. The opponents, banking on the latest developments in the Arab Spring, give priority to such issues as the necessity of promoting democracy, political freedoms, human rights and etc in Syria. In doing so, they are trying to make the most of the Arab Spring by drawing regional and international public opinion to the necessity of changing Assad’s regime. On the other hand, proponents of the government relying on the security forces and army, still sway the conflict and have succeeded to drive the armed oppositions out of major Syrian cities such as Damascus and Aleppo, in many cases.

Second, regionally, in which important regional players such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey play respective roles and maximalist approaches in preserving their national and security interests.

Iran, while keeping an eye on its economic and ideological interests, mostly considers the Syrian crisis in the context of “power relations” and preservation of the existing regional balance of power, thus containing the threats posed by the United States and Israel.

Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, mostly considers the crisis in Syria in the context of preserving “security”. The conservative regime in Riyadh is trying to keep the sweeping waves of the Arab Spring away from its own borders as well as Bahrain. As a result, it has focused on the Syrian crisis – as a means of putting pressure on Iran and containing Tehran’s regional role – a priority for its regional policies.

Turkey, mostly in the context of “regional leadership” and its “soft power”, is interested in changing Assad’s regime. Of course, in its effort to make the most opportunistic use of regional developments through the Syrian crisis, the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been facing a serious challenge and is under tremendous domestic pressure from those who accuse Ankara of having chosen an inappropriate policy towards this crisis.

And third, is the trans-regional level of confrontation in which Russia and the United States are lined against each other. Russia is mostly willing to contain the US’ influence in the region while keeping its traditional and strategic ally, Bashar al-Assad’s regime, intact. Concurrently, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, Russia is cautious about the issues related to protecting the international peace and security as well as human rights.

The United States’ ultimate goal is to implement a regime change in Syria at minimum costs while making the most of the dynamics of Syria’s domestic politics and the wave of developments in the Arab world. Although the United States theoretically bases its current rhetoric on the situation of human rights and democracy in Syria, one should note that the first and foremost priority is still to meet its own interests; protecting the security of the Israeli regime and curbing Iran's regional role.

Therefore, all political players nationally, regionally and internationally pursue their own maximalist approaches and this is why the crisis in Syria has continued so far and can potentially continue on for many months to come. In other words, the complex relationship between the country’s domestic and regional issues is such that none of the players can meet their interests, maximally, on their own.

Under these circumstances, the scenario of President Assad’s resignation, in the process of political transformation, can be a starting point for more proximity among all belligerent parties and even perhaps a prelude in achieving a sustainable solution for the Syrian crisis. Syria’s armed oppositions may be able to remove Asad’s regime, if supported by foreign forces, but this would be indeed very costly.

An intermediate solution, however, can be possibly acceptable to all sides. Although Iran prefers to have the Asad’s regime intact, it is likely to accept any possible changes in the process of political transition. For Iran, the most important matter is to equate the changes in the Syrian regime and maintain the clout of resistance front in the region, enabling them then to later take position. Saudi Arabia which is always keen on maintaining its own security is likely to agree with a gradual political transition that can lead to the removal of Asad from power. In view of its own domestic problems, Turkey is also sure to agree with the current regime to stay in place if Assad accepts to step down.

At the international level, Russia, the United States, China, and even the European Union are also concerned about the spreading of the civil war in Syria to other parts of the region. This situation may lead to further strengthening of violent groups such as Al-Qaeda as well as the intensification of regional rivalries. Therefore, they are also likely to agree, though reluctantly, with the gradual transference of the political power in the context of the current Syrian regime.

Under these circumstances, the announcement of the resignation of Assad through a transitional process seems to be a mid-way solution. The success of this solution, however, depends on providing the necessary guarantees and commitments from all players at the aforesaid levels. This can only be achieved by holding a number of peace conferences.

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