Syria’s issue are not Syrians, rather ‘regional and neighbouring states’
There is much consensus that a pulverizing military victory on either side is inconceivable, the regional deadlock ensures the sustainability of each embattled side in what is transpiring to be a lengthy war of attrition being fought on Syrian territory.
In the midst of the war there has been a significant change in the tone of the main players, the Syrian government has been speaking of peace rather than war, whispers of the words dialogue and political solution are echoing from Damascus. The opposition coalition too has been busy, sending demands and pre-conditions for any potential peace plan or dialogue, a release of 160,000 prisoners and a visa extension for all Syrians who are abroad.
Under the auspice of Russia, a meeting is due in Moscow at the
end of next month between the head of the coalition and the Syrian
Foreign Minister Walid al Muallem. This reiterates the role Russia
has to play, perhaps one of mediation and active diplomacy, a far
stretch from the policies of western powers who continue to support
a policy of regime change in Syria via proxy.
The Syrian Foreign Minister said on Monday ahead of talks with
his Russian counterpart that “We are ready for dialogue with
anyone who wants dialogue, including those who are fighting with
arms in their hands, because we are confident that reforms cannot
be carried out through bloodshed, but through dialogue.” This
signifies a crucial and defining change of attitude, faith in an
ultimate military solution has been replaced by more pacified calls
for an end to hostilities. This statement is important, as since
the beginning of the crisis this is the first time a leading
official has expressed the government’s readiness to engage in
dialogue with the armed opposition.
The insistence on dialogue shows the embattled state views the
crisis in the following context; firstly a political solution is an
absolute necessity, it is the only way to end the crisis and
preserve the strength of the state. Secondly, the quarrel is not
between Syrians, but rather regional and neighbouring states that
flood Syrian borders with fighters, weapons and extremist ideology,
allowing for the presence of radical Islamic groups including Al
Qaeda, working under the façade of the al Nusra front, according to
Walid al Muallem.
“Today Jabhat al-Nusra, which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda, is
involved in main fighting in Syria. It invited fighters from 28
countries including Chechnya.” Foreign radical fighters
are what the Syrian government clearly fears the most, their
presence; thought to number thousands is encouraged by regional
powers such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, making it a state on state
clash which is being waged on Syrian soil.
From a political perspective the opposition are boldly making a statement, in a sense reaching out to Assad for a political solution, with al Khatib’s call for dialogue. This can be judged to have the risk of running political suicide and a statement from a position of profound weakness, which is how some in Damascus may view the initiative.
It seems the Coalition has backtracked from its initial
viewpoint, where no longer than a month ago Khatib was vehemently
and audaciously requesting an apology from Moscow to the ‘Syrian
people’ for their continued support for the Syrian
On Monday Al Khatib said "I ask the regime to send Farouq
al-Shara - if it accepts the idea - and we can sit with him”. It is
clear that there is a fundamental change of tone to the opposition
coalition; Al Khatib added "The issue is now in the state's
court...to accept negotiations for departure, with fewer
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated “The number of
the supporters of this realistic line (peaceful solution) is
increasing.” Conspicuously there is a lack of desire for a
prolonged conflict which could threaten to engulf the region and
create a hotbed for extremism in a major Arab country.
Lavrov reiterated Russia’s stance is unchanged; Moscow desires a
peaceful outcome to the crisis. One cannot help but respect and
admire the Russians Foreign Minister, who clearly analyses
developments in Syria using logic and common sense rather than
scepticism and distortion. He described the western stance on Syria
as a 'strange logic' especially considering their protection of the
rebels and persistent refusal to condemn opposition violence. He
stated in a Russia Today interview that 'In general, the logic of
those who say, ‘No negotiations with Assad’ is really very
controversial and very dangerous.’
Russia clearly supports a political solution and understands the
diverse socio-political structure of the region; they shy from
making rash decisions in light of a volatile regional atmosphere
with complicated transitional political systems. Instead of
attacking Russia's position the West could learn from Russia's more
pragmatic foreign policy.
Russia also has the capacity to facilitate dialogue and run the longer course; Lavrov said “Peace treaties are not concluded overnight. They take a long time, a lot of compromises required by the parties involved. And also responsible behavior is absolutely critical by outside players.” Lavrov also admitted that the opposition could not defeat the government militarily.
Perhaps a glimmer of hope in a dark tunnel and maybe a long shot but Russia understands the basis of this conflict; they comprehend the crux of the crisis. This knowledge will act as a catalyst for their solid position. We no longer live in a world where it is acceptable to externally administer regime change at will, Russia will certainly see to that in the foreseeable future.
Western desire for intervention is fading as manifested by
William Hague’s statement on the threat of terror in Syria “They
may not pose a threat to us when they first go to Syria but if they
survive some may return ideologically hardened and with experience
of weapons and explosives.”
Conspicuously, there can be no external solution and western
disenchantment with the conflict in Syria only adds pressure to a
Syrian led political solution; every conflict ends in an agreement,
whether it is the Vienna convention, Treaty of Versailles or the
Taif agreement which solved the Lebanese civil war.
The real difference now is that there seems to be a flickering
light of hope at the end of the long, dark and bloody tunnel. This
hope is manifested in the real potentiality of a political
settlement. Those who read history can comprehend the nature of
conflicts in the Arab world; Syria seems to be taking the path of
the conflict in Algeria, with the opposition unable to achieve a
definite military victory.
The ‘silent majority’ in Syria constitute a considerable portion of the Syrian people, they seek an end to the crisis and a stop to the on-going cycle of war, I was recently in Damascus where life is bogged down in huge queue’s for petrol and bread, luxuries which Damascenes have always taken for granted, this hits home the potency of the conflict and how social and daily life in Syria has been affected by the conflict.
Truth be told, Syria no longer grabs the top headlines, there is a growing lack of interest in the conflict, emphasis only really emerges after the UN presents a new body count. Time will not wait for Russia and America to settle their differences, or for Qatar and Saudi Arabic to stop supporting the Islamist militias, the only people who can create a solution from the embers of destruction are Syrian. The world, the Middle East and the Syrian people await them.
Danny Makki, Syrian political activist, co-founder of Syrian youth in Britain and graduate in International Relations.
The statements, views
and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the
author and do not necessarily represent those of