A new Syria in a new Mid­dle East

As the West re­mains idle, Syr­i­ans con­tinue to suf­fer at large

The Kurdish Globe - - EDITORIAL - Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

di­vide over Syr­ian re­mains great. The Syr­ian op­po­si­tion and the West­ern pow­ers have long in­sisted that As­sad’s days are num­bered and any lit­tle le­git­i­macy he had left has long evap­o­rated. The cur­rent stale­mate is owed to those who staunchly sup­port Da­m­as­cus – Iran, Iraq, China and in par­tic­u­lar Rus­sia.

Rus­sia is the key de­nom­i­na­tor to find­ing an end to the Syr­ian strug­gle and the party that has al­ready ve­toed three UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions.

The West, hav­ing recog­nised the newly formed Syr­ian Na­tional Coali­tion as the le­git­i­mate rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Syr­ian peo­ple, re­main wary of di­rect mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion, the setup of a hu­man­i­tar­ian cor­ri­dor or even the arm­ing of the rebels.

The cur­rent vi­cious cy­cle in Syria is not about to break. There is no way back for As­sad now. Syria will never be the same again and out­gunned rebels will even­tu­ally top­ple As­sad one way or an­other. The end game is clear, the only thing not clear is when and how many thou­sands more lives will be sac­ri­ficed and how much more suf­fer­ing the pop­u­la­tion will en­dure in the process.

At the re­cent Mu­nich Se­cu­rity Con­fer­ence, US Vice-Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den re­it­er­ated that As­sad “is no longer fit to lead the Syr­ian peo­ple and he must go.” The gulf be­tween US and Rus­sia is one of the rea­sons for the pro­tracted na­ture of the strug­gle.

Rus­sia has been in­sis­tent that a tran­si­tional plan or ne­go­ti­a­tions should not have the re­moval of As­sad as a pre­req­ui­site. This negates the whole pur­pose and mo­tive of the Syr­ian op­po­si­tion. How Rus­sia can con­tinue to be­lieve that As­sad can be part of any fu­ture demo­cratic frame­work or Syr­ian tran­si­tion smacks of delu­sion.

In a sym­bolic step for the first time, Sergei Lavrov, the Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter, held talks with leader of the Syr­ian Na­tional Coali­tion, Sheikh Ahmed Moaz Al-Khatib. Al-Khatib’s re­marks that he is pre­pared for di­a­logue with the Da­m­as­cus regime, cre­ated furry among the Syr­ian op­po­si­tion. Khatib later back-ped­aled and in­sisted any talks would merely be on the pro­viso of a peace­ful exit of As­sad’s regime.

Ei­ther way, there is no doubt that the key to the top­pling of As­sad lies in build­ing pos­i­tive ties be­tween Rus­sia and the Syr­ian Na­tional Coali­tion.

As the Syr­ian con­flict rages on, even Rus­sian ranks are in­creas­ingly di­vided, with a stark re­al­ity that Moscow does not want to risk burn­ing bridges with a fu­ture Syria, in spite of its rhetoric. Just re­cently, Rus­sian Prime Min­is­ter Dmitri Medvedev hit out at As­sad’s lack of reach-out to the op­po­si­tion and deemed his chances of stay­ing in power as “shrink­ing day by day”.

A new Syria in a new Mid­dle

East

With the Syr­ian Kurds fi­nally free from the chains of dic­ta­tor­ship and en­joy­ing sym­bolic au­ton­omy that they are un­likely to re­lin­quish af­ter decades of suf­fer­ing, Alaw­ites likely to re­group in their strongholds and Sun­nis as­cend­ing to power, the new frag­mented Syria will be a far cry from that of yesteryears.

With the new Syria and the Arab Spring, strate­gic and sec­tar­ian al­liances of the Mid­dle East are un­der­tak­ing a dras­tic shift. Syr­ian Kurds will move closer to the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion, Turkey’s Kur­dish pol­icy both in­ter­nally and ex­ter­nally will need a ma­jor re­think with the re­al­ity of Kur­dish au­ton­omy on its south­ern bor­der, Sun­nis in Iraq will nat­u­rally move closer to the new Da­m­as­cus regime just as Bagh­dad will move in­creas­ingly closer to Tehran.

Then there are the ram­i­fi­ca­tions for the Pales­tini­ans, Hezbol­lah and Is­rael. The shifts in the Mid­dle East are un­avoid­able. The West­ern pow­ers and re­gional forces most move quickly, to har­ness such in­evitabil­i­ties in the most con­struc­tive way, or risk more tur­moil and de­struc­tion in a fu­ture Syria and the new Mid­dle East.

A con­tin­ual pol­icy of stick­ing to the side-lines in the cur­rent con­flict will greatly en­cour­age ex­trem­ists in the Syr­ian strug­gle and risk the pos­si­bil­i­ties of war within a war, as dan­ger­ously wit­nessed with al-Qaeda backed el­e­ments fight­ing Kur­dish forces in Kur­dish pop­u­lated ar­eas, seem­ingly on a drive to es­ca­late the Syr­ian war and pour fuel on Arab, Kur­dish hos­til­i­ties.

A Free Syr­ian Army fighter ges­tures in front of a burn­ing bar­ri­cade dur­ing heavy fight­ing in the Ain Tarma neigh­bour­hood of Da­m­as­cus

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