Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Syrian Opposition and Geneva 2

A truth became evident when a Iraqi tribal leader, in Anbar province, heading the demonstrations against Maliki government, refused to repeat the "Syrian scenario" in Iraq. The same sentiment was repeated by opposition leaders in Huwija, near Kirkuk (100 km north of Baghdad). After all Iraq has been through since 2003, yet what unfolded in Syria in the past two years stood out as a story... a story to be told, but never repeated. 

Now there is a "Syrian scenario" that is feared and must be avoided by governments and opposition groups alike in neighboring countries. Governments and opposition groups throughout the Middle East just witnessed in Syria the upper bound of a national crisis. More than 100,000 dead, 1.4 million externally displaced people, more that 5 million internally displaced. Cities, villages, and communities throughout Syria deemed unrecognizable. The sons of Syria are killing each other with support of complicit foreigners.

Syria became the worst case scenario imagined from a government security standpoint, and from an opposition's political gain perspective. 

The futility of a military solution in this crisis was evident since last year, hence the call of the International community headed by Moscow, for both sides to meet at the Geneva convention in June 2012. The idea of negotiating with the Syrian government was rejected by various opposition groups. While Moscow and Iran were fully committed to the path of negotiation from the beginning, the US and it's Arab allies were not. The Syrian opposition, represented by the Syrian National Council turned to the militarization path, as the only option to topple the regime. 

The Syrian opposition (SNC)'s calls for arms, US and NATO military intervention, and no fly zones, increased between June 2012 and April 2013. On two occasions, the EU refused to lift the arms embargo put on the opposition. Since June 2012, additional 50,000 Syrians died, 800,000 Syrians left the country and more than 10 million Syrians are living at the poverty threshold (1$/day). 

New calls to a second Geneva Peace convention, to be held in June/July, are garnering support from the international community. 

This time however State Secretary Kerry's diplomatic consultation, in the last couple of months, has converged the U.S. position with that of Russia, China, Germany and other EU countries.  Finding a political solution through negotiation between Syrian government representatives, and opposition representatives, via the Geneva plan, is seen as the only viable option... it always was.

The only difference this time, compared to June 2012, is that the Syrian government is at a significant advantage, for the following reasons: 

1- The international community has recognized the threat of radicalized armed groups in Syria, such as Annusra Front, along with other 27 groups. The FSA lacks arms and refused an infighting with the Islamist groups. The job of fighting the Islamist groups has been left in the hands of the Syrian Army. That aspect of the Syrian military operations is supported by the International community.

2- The International community has been consistently averse to military intervention in Syria. NATO command does not consider military air strikes, or no fly zones . Supplying Arms to the rebels have also been discounted, in fear that it will reach the most organized among the rebels, namely the radical Islamists.

3- The Syrian army made strategic advancements on the grounds in the past two months, especially in alQussair near Homs, in Daraia near Damascus, and in Ghuta Sharqia. The logistics and supply routs of the militants have been severely damaged. 

4- The political infighting, and mistrust among SNC members, have damaged their reputation as effective future statesmen. Many individuals are well intentioned and working towards a solution to the crisis. Yet many others are there to serve their own agenda, with disregard to the unprecedented humanitarian devastation reached in Syria. 

5- Qatar who supported the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood stance within the Syrian National Coalition has taken a back seat recently in the Syrian crisis. Saudi Arabia is taking a bigger role along with Iran, Egypt and Russia. 

6- The recent rapprochement between Egypt and Iran (also Jordan and Iran) have further bolstered "Direct Negotiation" as the only option to gradually resolve the crisis in Syria. 

My hope is that talks about a transitional government, and transitional justice will replace the news stream of devastation, death and destruction of Syria in the coming months.

سوريا حبيبتي.. الحرية و الكرامة