Federalism is by definition a form of government whereby authority is divided constitutionally between a central government and smaller governmental units on the regional or provincial level. These levels are linked, one to the other, while the regions and provinces are considered constitutional units, each with its own legislative, executive, and judicial authority carrying out the administration of these regions in accordance with powers specified in the nation’s constitution. The constitution in a federalist country is the highest authority, from which the state derives its institutions and the regions their authority. There must be an independent federal judiciary able to abrogate any inconsistent law, as well as a national constitution voted on by all the nation’s citizens.
There are many very successful models of federations which have helped bring about qualitative changes in the lives of their citizens (the United States, Germany, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates), and there are other federations which led to war between the residents of the federalist country and transformed their lives into a tragedy (the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Sudan) ending with the division of the country and impoverishment of its citizens.
For that reason, before we encourage the promotion of Syria as a federalist country or begin attacking the idea and regarding those who have it as treacherous, there must be an extensive study of the reality of Syria, its geography, and the diversity of its people. Is federalism, as a system governing the lives of Syrians, really a popular Syrian demand which can be agreed upon? And is it possible to begin implementing it to the satisfaction of all, and to produce a country able to organize the efforts of the different groups of its population, and to unite its energies to work toward building a strong, civilized country able to secure better lives for its citizens and occupy the place it deserves among the civilized nations of the world?
Or will it be a system imposed on Syrians by the rule of the strong over the weak, without possessing any ingredients for success, demanded because it is the best way to serve regional interests (Israel and Iran) and international interests (Russia and the United States) which require Syria to become what Iraq is today: a weak, crumbling state which is a venue for the division of regional and international influence?
Iran is extending its control over the region by turning all its countries into “Lebanons,” with brittle political regimes which are easy to impose hegemony upon by supporting some of its elements to control its stability, and guaranteeing Israel that a strong state will not be established near its borders. Brittle and weak states such as these can also be ready locations for international wars and the conflicts of influence between international powers away from their borders.
Therefore we must deal seriously with some of the international or local Syrian proposals around federalism in Syria, and present realistic and scientific studies around the issue and its suitability – or lack of suitability – for us as Syrians, and demonstrate the negatives and positives and the benefits resulting from its acceptance or rejection before trying to promote it and cling to it on an idealistic emotional basis, or reject it and insist on labelling it a conspiracy for the same reasons.
It is time to stop dealing with our destiny and the future of our country with only the emotions and prejudices. Forty-six years of Baathist ideological demagoguery and five years of bloodshed and displacement and pain should be enough to be rational and rely upon logical and scientific studies about our situation as the basis for accepting or rejecting all which impacts our destiny.
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