Opinion: An Alternative to Assad Has Become a Necessity

The Syrian opposition's failure to propose a suitable alternative to Assad has helped the Syrian president to defy international pressure to step down, Walid al-Bunni argues

After the statements of the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about the end of the reign of the Assad family and the need for it to depart in an orderly fashion, in a way that does not result in the collapse of the Syrian state and drown it in the chaos of religious war or turn the country into into a safe haven for terrorist organizations which threaten global security, came a statement from the French President Emmanuel Macron which called Bashar al-Assad an enemy of the Syrian people, but he acknowledged an alternative with enough legitimacy to take Assad’s place did not exist. He therefore gave up the condition of Assad’s departure as an introduction to any political solution in Syria and said that the world’s priority must be to focus on fighting terrorist groups and eliminating them.

The two statements, with their different dialects and different speakers, indicate one important thing for Syrians: that they have not been able throughout recent years to demonstrate a convincing alternative to tyranny or show how the disaster that has struck their country will be dealt with if an alternative is not provided.

They pose a question, and the Syrian political, cultural and economic elite must answer with vision and bravery:
What is the alternative able to take the place of a ruling mafia and prevent the collapse of Syria and its institutions, or keep it and its people from falling easy prey into the hands of religious extremism so that the departure of the butcher of the Syrian era would not be a greater disaster for Syrians themselves — and for the world — than him remaining? Especially given that most armed forces fighting on the ground belong to Shiite extremist groups, such as Hezbollah and other Iraqi and Iranian militias, or to takfiri groups such as Islamic State (ISIS), the Nusra Front or their followers, and will be the de facto masters if the Assad mafia departs without a suitable alternative.

The Syrian political, economic and cultural elite has for the last six years dealt with incomprehensible indifference with this question which has been put to them since the first day of the revolution, and which should have been answered and an alternative attempted to be found in the first month. The creation of this alternative became even more pressing after the fall of Libya’s tyrant and Libya drowning in the chaos which is still suffers from today.

The institutions formed by the nations supporting and funding the Syrian opposition were designed to be unable to answer this question, leaving the alternative to these countries to formulate in a way that guarantees their dominance over the future Syria. These artificial, subordinate and corrupt institutions turned into an area for competition between the backers in order to dominate Syrian decision-making and to control and prolong the rhythm of death and destruction devouring Syria and its people.

The inaction of many Syrian political, economic and cultural elites who were not involved in the corruption of the regime and opposition despite their position on the revolution, in addition to the ability of the regime and some regional countries to corrupt others and to eliminate those they could not corrupt, made it impossible to form an alternative Syrian future able to produce realistic solutions and convince the world to task it with an extremely difficult mission, prolonging the disaster which has afflicted our country and our people for more than six years.

What Tillerson and, after him, Macron said should be an incentive to all Syrians, especially their political, cultural and economic elite not involved in the corruption of the regime nor in the corruption and subordination of the opposition institutions, to think of a convincing response to the question which will remain posed from now and to the moment Tillerson can be reassured of an orderly departure of the Assad family — a departure that does not push Syria into the hands of Iran, Al-Qaeda or its murderous takfiri followers — and until Macron and many, many other Western politicians can see in the Syrian political arena a legitimate and convincing alternative to Assad.

Creating a convincing and realistic alternative to Assad and his regime is extremely necessary. Ending the tragedy of the Syrians and the rebuilding of their country depends on their conviction for the need of this alternative and the speed of their work to truly create it.

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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