The West cannot turn a blind eye to the recent attacks in Paris that managed to penetrate its defenses and simultaneously strike several areas in close succession.
The attack has rattled a handful of Western governments; uneasy at the thought of Islamic State atrocities extending beyond its own borders, whether in Syria, Iraq or even the Sinai and Libya. Nonetheless, such an attack on the center of Europe will require more of a response than the tightening of security procedures; it will require a full offensive against ISIS and all similar organizations.
Thus, the US, Russia, China and other Western and regional states have decided to unite their efforts to crush ISIS, Nusra Front and other terrorist organizations inside Syria, as they believe Syria to be the source of countless extremists groups. Participants of the second Vienna conference have come to understand that the only way to kill the snake of growing extremism is to cut off its head in Syria.
Representatives at the Vienna II conference agreed to disregard all points that were scheduled for discussion, even those which remain disputed, in order to settle one specific issue: the elimination of ISIS and other terrorist groups. All participants realized that ISIS can only be eliminated by ending the military chaos in Syria, pointing all available arms towards these terrorists. In order to see this through, governments must work to end the Syrian crisis.
This decision should not require a lot of discussion. It only needs a clear international consensus, and the will to impose a ceasefire among all the Syrian and non-Syrian parties not considered to be terrorists (it is understood that those who do not have the support of any of the Vienna participants are considered to be terrorist organizations). The ceasefire should coincide with a political settlement between the regime and the opposition, which should be easy to achieve as all the Syrian political parties are also under the guardianship of those countries that support the armed parties.
These are not my words, they are a summary of what the Russian and US foreign ministers said during their media conference at the conclusion of the Vienna talks. US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council had agreed on issuing a ceasefire decision that does not included ISIS, Nusra Front and the similar organizations.
Top diplomats also discussed the possibility of negotiations between the Assad regime and the opposition, as well as a transitional governing authority, a revised constitution, and elections and setting their dates. Representatives spoke on behalf of their own governments, as well as all other participants of Vienna who were either concerned with the Syrian crisis or an active part of it, meaning that no party could effectively obstruct the agreement.
Things may not have transpired exactly as they were laid out in Vienna, but the Vienna path has curbed the rising crisis into a descent, which was never going to be an easy thing.
Vienna’s most significant achievement may have been when the two major poles in the Syrian crisis, the Russian and the American, both agreed to the key sentence "We have agreed to solve the Syrian crisis", without any mention of their differences. The absence of such a sentence was the reason we had refused to respond to several invitations from the American, British, and the French ambassadors to participate in Geneva II, because we were convinced that no solution would be possible without such an agreement.
This was similar to the case of uniting the opposition, which did not happen for four years, but easily unfolded at the recent Riyadh conference once the international community discovered a consensus. We witnessed the union of most opposition forces in addition to some moderate fighting factions without any obstacles. I could honestly say that the conference happened as if all the participants were part of the same organization.
Uniting the opposition was the first step in the Vienna political process, which was almost inevitable. The next step will happen in the coming days, and might be a double leap combining negotiations with a ceasefire agreement. It won’t be long before the features of a transition period appear and all parties agree on a (no loser, no winner) form, which we had delayed for over four years, and thus were accused of all sorts of awful things. We had also said that all the victims and losses would be for nothing and will not change the (no loser, no winner) equation and at the end, we will all sit at a negotiation table that would lead to an authority made up of all parties.
However, the situation, as everyone knows, has worsened since 2011 and 2012. The worst aspect of this was the absence of qualified decision-makers, as the past four years produced countless figures who have boasted about the support they receive from particular states, while intimidating their enemies and friends with their dependence on these countries. This applies to both the regime and the opposition.
This is something that would result in a lost chance for Syrians regarding the political settlement imposed by the international community. However, the rush of the international community and its improvisation during many situations will provide an opportunity to create a limited Syrian space under the undeclared international guardianship imposed on Syria. This means that a possibility remains to plant a fertile seed which will grow the lost national sovereignty. If we do not start the process now, and if we are not clever, Syria will remain without sovereignty for over a decade. Our fate will resemble our neighbor, Lebanon, who has been unable to elect a president, parliament or a new government for the past year and a half.
We failed as an opposition to do this in Riyadh, we were unable to advance one step ahead of the other countries despite the opportunity we had. Many opposition figures waited patiently for instructions from their supporting countries before making a decision, and it is hard for them to start trusting themselves now, which would put an end to many vital relationships.
Faced with these personal concerns, many of us have tended to depend on certain countries to guarantee their existence in the coming phase, without taking into consideration the impact this would have on our loss of sovereignty. We thought that depending on other countries was less dangerous than communicating with other Syrians.
I have not meant to omit the issue of Assad; the countries that agreed on solving the crisis omitted 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.