Sunday, August 7, 2011

Syria: The Limitations of the Security Solution

The Syrian government was able to nurse its embattled image in the international arena last week when the UN declared that all violence must stop in Syria; violence by the regime as well as by the armed groups. Finally, the international community recognized that the Syrian government is confronting an armed rebellion, in addition to sporadic protests in various cities and villages.

The security branch of the Lebanese army declared last week that it was able to stop a shipment from Beirut port headed to Tripoly and then the Syrian city of Banias. There have been at least thirty weapon shipments from that port alone to Syria in the past four months. Turkish officials and Iraqi boarder patrol, as well as Jordanian officials, recognized the same weapon smuggling activities on their ends.

Who are the fighters? Since the Syrian opposition denied vehemently for months that there are armed groups in Syria, one can assume that an upfront association with the armed groups is not in the opposition's best interest. A radical Syrian sheikh by the name of Adnan Arrar, garnered much attention in the last months as being the instigator of the sectarian fueled bloody confrontation between his followers and the security apparatus in various Syrian cities. Arrar feverishly condems non-Sunni Syrian's to death, as all non-Sunnis are, in his opinion, infidels and must be erradicated. In the case of Syria this amounts to around 30% of the population.

While the Syrian government was able to score a point last week with the balanced approach of the UN statement, it can not continue to overuse the security approach. Crushing the armed rebellion can not last for months without a consistant National diologue that will encompass the majority of the opposition demands.

The opposition, on the other hand, is not showing much enthusiasm to negotiate with the regime, given that they perceive time as being on their side. "It is a matter of time before the regime crumbles from the inside" declares one opposition figure in London. "So what if fifty-thousand die.. as long as the regime is defeated" declares another in Australia.

Getting moderate opposition figures to successfully negotiate with the regime must be preceded by a gradual distinction between the types of Syrian opposition. In order to ligitimize the moderates who believe in a democratic government and religious freedom, one must distinguish them from the religious radicals who hold diffirent view points. With the understanding that in a pluralistic government/society, everyone has the right to express and hold differing opinions.

The multilayered pressure experienced by the Syrian government, from the protesters, armed groups, and international community is not a new experience in content but in intensity. The Syrian government, thus far, has prioratized the security solution, meaning the systematic and surgical military and security operations in towns from Dar'a, Banians, Jisr ashughur, Homs, Hama, and now in Dair Azur.
It must be said in this regard, that the recent decrees passed, specially decree 100 and 101, have fundementally changed and improved the political landscape in Syria.

Bringing both sides to the negotiating table is an effort in recognition. The Syrian government must accept the fact that there are mounting social, political and economic grievences against the regime, and that there are very respected opposition figures outside as well as inside Syria who insist on achieving political pluralism, freedom of speech and social/economic justice. On the other hand, the opposition needs to recognize that a dialogue with the Syrian government is not a sellout nor is it percieved as accepting second best. In fact, most modern social movements succeeded in changing the regime structure through elite negotiations.

The prioratization of the security solution is pushing the Syrian regime away from moderate opposition figures, and it is alienating Syria's neighbors who are supporting a political solution to the Syrian crises.

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