Azmi Bishara, Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, encouraged Syrians to hold a general Syrian conference announcing a Syrian unifying organization and leadership institution that speaks for all Syrians.
“What the Syrian people showed at the beginning of the revolution was great. Had there been a leadership with national dignity to represent them at the time, the situation would have been different,” he said on Sunday evening in an exclusive interview with Syria TV on the program “Damascus Forum.” He added: “The West is looking for this kind of leadership body to communicate with.”
Bishara said the Syrian diaspora “has a tremendous amount of intellectual and political capacity,” which can offer leadership and build that institution as a real alternative to the Assad regime.”
He stressed that his recommendation should be “on behalf of the Syrian people, and not in the name of Hassakeh, Raqqa, or Deir-ez-Zor…”
The regime did not win
Describing the regime in Syria today, Bishara said it is “an authoritarian regime that has reached the point of tyranny, and there are no limits on the brutality it has practiced.”
He stated that social structure, as well as political or “partisan” roles, no longer exist since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution. “Today, this role falls on militias and imposters,” Bishara said. These actors replaced the institution “army” which, like the rest of the regime’s institutions, has changed from before the revolution.
Although the revolution did not succeed, and despite the fact that the war turned into a “civil war” because of “the diversity of armed groups, the disintegration of the opposition, and the fragmentation of Syrian society as a result of displacement — which has affected more than one in two people — […] the regime did not win, and no longer controls Syria, despite theoretically controlling half of Syria’s territory,” Bishara added.
“The regime has reached its weakest point because it has lost the ability to provide basic services. State institutions are now a vehicle for plundering society to support the regime’s members,” he said. But the main problem, according to Bishara, “is not the weakness of the system, but the alternatives available.”
Russians and Iranians
On the regime’s relationship with Russia and Iran, Dr. Bishara said that the regime had “succeeded in having both choose to accept the regime as it is, without any conditions.” He added: “They too found no alternative.
Bishara explained that Tehran and Moscow “disagree on everything regarding Syria, except on one thing: keeping Bashar al-Assad in power, because it is a guarantee of their continued influence.” He continued that Assad “succeeded in maintaining power, yet he sold the country. It is not known how long Syrians will need to pay the debts owed to both countries.”
Elections as “flawed charade” and negotiations as a “waste of time”
Commenting on the regime’s “presidential elections,” public intellectual Bishara said that they are a “sham.” “It is a shame to call them elections because they do not make any difference, which merely maintains the status quo.”
“Assad has mastered a strange game, which he plays every now and then. He knows very well that the people are aware that these are performances only, yet he continues to perform — for example, with these elections.”
Bishara said the supposed “negotiations” between the opposition and the regime are just a waste of time. He stressed that: “The solution needs international intervention, not these negotiations.”
“I do not see an imminent international or regional solution, nor serious action from the active and influential countries to broker a political solution to the Syrian situation,” Bishara said.
From civil society to factionalism and militancy
Bishara stressed that the Syrian revolution began as a “popular, peaceful, and civil” uprising. This prompted the regime to use violence upon realizing the seriousness of the movement from the outset. That decision led to the situation where the civil revolution’s leaders resorted to “killing, imprisoning, and exiling.”
“The proliferation of factions, their lack of unity, and their political affiliations have led to there being no strong political alternative, at both the societal and state levels,” Bishara said, adding: “If we do not offer a political alternative, we must accept responsibility.”
“The opposition should have persuaded the international community to protect civilians,” Bishara said. “Unfortunately, there have been cases within the opposition-held areas where civilians needed protection from the opposition factions.”
Speaking about the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), Bishara said that “the Kurdish issue in Syria is different from that in Turkey,” adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and AANES reflect “a minority that wanted to control Hassakeh and then dominated three provinces in eastern Syria. The only guarantee for them is their cohesion with their Arab surroundings.”
Bishara noted that there is a great danger of “the presence of political entities in Idleb, in northwestern Syria, and SDF-controlled areas.” “Syrians must quickly establish an umbrella organization (somewhat similar to the Palestine Liberation Organization, PLO) to bypass these groups, which the international community can communicate with.”
On the new US position after the administration’s change, Dr. Bishara explained that the US will not prevent those who want normalization with Assad, “but it does not encourage normalization like, for example, the Russians do.” He added that the Americans “have laws that we are stuck with, namely sanctions. Congress is blocking any attempt to alter the administration’s position on Assad.”
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.