Today we are witnessing the collapse of the Islamic State (ISIS). Regardless of the reasons for its emergence and the agendas it was working toward, its fall is motivating all countries concerned with the Syrian issue to discuss the stage after ISIS.
While the war on ISIS in Iraq was based on cooperation between the Iraqi and American governments, with participation of Iran on the ground through the Popular Mobilization forces paramilitaries, on Syrian territory it took another direction, with the United States attempting to control different areas, while the Iranians, through the Assad regime, tried to expand their control toward the Iraqi border in a way that has resulted in conflict, sometimes directly, between these two sides — especially in the areas ISIS controls, which exceeded 40 percent of the country’s total area. This has come after the Kurdish forces backed by America in the north captured about 20 percent of territory, while there is talk in the remaining regions about drawing contact lines with “useful Syria,” and dividing the country into separated regions under the authority of regional and international forces participating in the war, under the slogans of “truce” and “de-escalation” up to a full cease-fire. This is before entering into the projects of a conclusive solution, whether in terms of maintaining the unity of the country (centralized or federalist) or in terms of delivering its division into statelets according to social communities and international allegiances. Is it possible to head toward this solution? Or is what is being discussed simply an introduction to a decisive conflict far from political solutions?
No doubt that what recently occurred in the fifth Astana conference has begun to impose itself on all subsequent developments. The meeting failed to achieve its aspirations in terms of a serious implementation of the truce, drawing de-escalation zones and specifying the nature of the monitoring forces necessary to be deployed in these areas to guarantee the cease-fire. As many noted, this was primarily a result of the Iranian obstacle, something which pushed Moscow to announce an agreement with the Americans regarding the truce in the country’s southwest, after the prolonged, ongoing preparations with Jordanian participation, which are still not over, alongside the American condition that Iranians and militias under their authority stay away from these areas. This could perhaps be an alternative to the Astana agreement, in the event that the two great powers reach more truce deals in other areas. However, the Assad regime’s position on the current settlements, including the one signed in Astana, alongside the Iranian position on achieving the spread of this regime on the widest possible scale — and without considering the positions of other countries or the size of the tragedy the deal causes to the Syrian people, as it considers its presence and the presence of Russian forces legitimate, while demanding the exit of all other forces coming from abroad — could motivate new military activity, with results opposite to what these agreements intend.
In this contradictory atmosphere, the fifth Geneva conference is being held – among efforts of its main players to move toward some sort of exit from the scene while committing to the return of a murderous regime which has lost its legitimacy, overlooking the need to send the regime's main figures to the International Criminal Court and ignoring the shameful silence which is an affront to humanity – to discuss four baskets pertaining to fighting terrorism, a political transition, the constitution and elections. However, the regime has been intransigent in every round and has delayed any negotiating process, even if indirect, and made these meetings into nothing more than a periodic occasion to remind everyone of its lack of seriousness to negotiate, despite the major optimism expressed by the U.N. envoy, who has recently said that what happened in Astana with the completed Russian-American agreement is an important introduction to a political solution related to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254. He described this as the preparation for the coming solution, awaiting its historic moment, without considering the disputes and obstacles surrounding these agreements, or the positions of many who wish to circumvent them. This does not even include the question of the opposition’s unity — with his efforts to ensure representation for the Moscow and Cairo platforms within the opposition negotiating delegation — whereby it is impossible to talk about the presence of a real Syrian force representing the Syrian people carring out the current negotiations in a general national conference, insofar as the participants only need to develop a mechanism for a transition toward a state for all Syrians.
If the current developments may not seem to accord with what is being discussed politically to reach a specific conclusion to the war, and the relative calm that some areas are seeing may not seem to be a result of the agreements and understandings, at least the current gains of the forces of President Bashar al-Assad and the Iranians with the help of Russian is clear. The American intervention is occurring at a swift pace on a number of fronts in the north, east and southwest, as well as the situation of the Turkish intervention, which is headed toward expanding its control in the north, up to the threat of entering the Afrin region. With these developments, is it possible to say that what is happening represents preparation for a solution? Or that it is the beginning of a stage of conflict that could take on a decisive form, and could distance all Syrians, regime and opposition, from any decision-making over the fate of their country, placing them under foreign guardians of a new type. This is something which cannot be avoided, or so it seems, except by moving quickly toward implementing the international solution and removing all foreign forces who have doused their hands in Syrian blood, without any introduction or preparation, or the situation will be further complicated and will increase the tragedy and disasters which have afflicted them.
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.