A prominent leading figure in the “Supreme Islamic Council” headed by the Shiite leader Ammar al-Hakim revealed to As-Siyasah news site yesterday that secret talks are under way involving the highest levels of leadership in Iran, Iraq, and Russia, with the Syrian government to crystallize a decisive political stance. This includes an agreement with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on not running in the upcoming presidential elections as well as the selection of a guaranteed person from within the regime to run in those elections.
The leader of the Iraqi Shiites said there is conviction shared by Tehran, Baghdad, Moscow, and Assad himself, that Assad would not be able to achieve any victory in the presidential election and that his candidacy represents a risk by all accounts “because it may bringa bout the defeat of the whole regime, which enhances the chances of [victory for] other candidates from the opposition or from regime defectors such as former prime minister Riad Hijab.”
The source from the Supreme Islamic Council explained that Assad was, up until recently, optimistic about running in the presidential elections because he was betting that the growing influence of militant groups affiliated with al-Qaeda would contribute to Syrians in cities that have suffered from these [militant] groups’ action to re-elect him. Assad’s fall, as the source explained, would lead to the strengthening of the status of the extremists. But some developments changed this possibility, including the use of chemical weapons against civilians in some areas of Ghouta, and [Syria’s]acceptance of the process to eliminate those weapons, boosting Syrians’ doubts that Assad was behind the attack against the civilians… Some reports from within the Baath Party proved that Assad has become a matter of concern for all Syrians, sympathizers and opponents alike, because the re-election means the continuation of violence and bloody conflict.
According to the source, who is a close associate of al-Hakim’s, the options available to the top leaders in Iran, Iraq, and Russia are moving toward a few shared priorities.
First, Assad himself should choose his alternative, who should be someonesupported bythe Assad family and someone they see as reliable, who would secure immunity for the Syrian president and his inner circle in the next phase .
Second, [this replacement would] resolve the dispute between the leaders of Iraq and Iran on the one hand and the Russian leadership on the other hand. While Tehran and Baghdad supported the nomination of an Alawite from the regime, Moscow opposes this [option], supporting the nomination of a Sunni to assume the presidency with the support of Assad, to ensure the support of the Sunni majority inlight of the fears and concerns of militant organizations and to divide the opposition.
Third, work should start now to preparethe alternative for Assad from within the regime to be part of the debate on the conclusion of a historic settlement of the conflict, both in the Geneva 2 process or through collective or bilateral talks between major countries.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer