It is clear that any solutions for Syria, whether military or political, have been deferred for judgement until the new American administration arrives. Everything happening these days — from meetings and dialogues to forums and negotiations, inside Geneva and out — is merely an attempt by the current Obama administration to pass the time with the fewest losses possible, as well as an attempt by Russia to win time and exploit this administration’s weakness and unwillingness to deal seriously with the Syrian question in order to secure a foothold in Syria and return to the international arena as a great power.
Any prospective solution, if it is destined to succeed, will require at least a full year, according to most analyses. Therefore the Syrian cultural, political and social elite should start working toward securing successful conditions for such a solution today, as quickly as possible, and do all they can to achieve it with the least possible harm to Syria and its people.
The elite must make all the political, media, and diplomatic efforts needed to map future milestones for Syria in a way that preserves its geographical unity on one hand, while making it a nation desirable to all Syrians of different religious and ethnic backgrounds on the other. It must also reassure neighbors and the international community that a free Syria will be a democratic and peaceful country enjoying good relations with the region and the world, inside the borders which have been internationally acknowledged since its independence from French colonization in 1946. In order for all that to happen, work must be done to clarify the following basic points.
First, the shape of the Syrian nation:
The issue of Syria’s geographical unity within its internationally-recognized borders must be settled, because the overlap of populations in all Syria’s provinces and regions means that any form of partition along sectarian or ethnic lines would be like trying to break up embers to try to extinguish them, thereby expanding the area of the fire. Any project to partition Syria would lead to civil war and conflict would spread to every part of the country. If we look at the partition maps which some Israeli media and those who move in their orbit have tried to circulate, we will find that the Syrian coast, including Homs and some of the regions of Hama, includes all shades of Syria’s sects. The possibility that the strife of partition would come to pass in this part of Syria is almost nonexistent because residents of this region are not calling for division. Indeed, to the complete contrary, an overwhelming majority of Syrians of all backgrounds living in this area categorically reject the idea. The problem remains in the Syrian Jazira region, despite the absence of a Kurdish majority except in some scattered towns as well as the desire of most Syrian Kurds to live in a united Syria that guarantees justice and cultural and national rights for them like to all Syria’s other ethnic constituents. But there may be a few calling for secession and incorporation with Iraqi Kurdistan as a reaction to the oppression Syrian Kurds were subjected to during the age of tyranny, coupled with encouragement from Israel and some other regional countries who benefit from the continuing instability of Syria and the region. This makes it necessary for there to be serious work and cooperation with the Kurdish political and social elite to find national solutions for this question and reject any projects or ideas that threaten Syria’s unity.
Second, Syria’s political system after tyranny:
Any political system for an independent Syria must take into consideration the nature of the Syrian people and the diversity of Syrian religious, ideological and ethnic affiliations. Therefore a stable political system in Syria must depend on the principle of citizenship and recognize the phrase that religion is for God and the nation is for all Syrians without discrimination, while safeguarding the religious and national and cultural rights stipulated in international human rights law for all Syrians. It must refrain from implementing the ethnic and sectarian quotas which have produced failed states and corrupt governments unable to administer their countries or preserve social peace, as in the Iraqi and Lebanese examples. There needs to be agreement on the extent of decentralization necessary to ease the work of state institutions and give a bigger role to local administrations in managing aspects of life of residents in Syrian cities and provinces, without affecting in any way, shape or form the unity of Syria’s territory and people.
Third, the fate of Assad and the economic-security mafia around him:
It is not possible to talk about turning the page of tyranny and achieving a political transition in Syria without neutralizing those who commanded the stage of tyranny and caused the humanitarian and national disaster that has afflicted Syria. It will be difficult to convince the families of more than half a million Syrians who have lost their lives because of them, or the more than 1 million disabled, or the millions of refugees, that they should accept living in a state where this mafia still has a role in managing their affairs. Simply put, these families will not be reassured about their future, and the desire for revenge among millions of Syrian youth will not be calmed without removing this mafia from Syria and its future.
Fourth, the fate of the extremist and takfiri armed groups:
A large portion of the Syrian people of all ethnic and sectarian affiliations will not be persuaded by any political solution that might lead in any way, shape or form to a transition from a mafioso’s tyranny to a takfiri religious tyranny. For that reason, there must be concerted Syrian national, Arab, regional and international efforts to rid Syria and the region of these groups. Their presence in any part of Syria will remain a threat to all Syrians and an obstacle to any political process aiming to return stability to Syria and begin rebuilding.
What comes late is better than what comes never.
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