Much better than bombs. Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed is no dove or accomodator when writing about Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Quite the opposite. Here he is writing in the Saudi based Asharq Al Awsat (English). Backed up by the serious threat of force, it’s the most hopeful and practical vision of a political-diplomatic solution that I’ve read anywhere by anyone:
Opinion: The Assad Regime’s Final Demise
Despite frustrations, a light shining at the end of the tunnel suggests that the end of the Assad regime is nigh. The 1,400 Syrians who suffocated to death in the suburbs of Damascus sped up the regime’s decline. The plan to rid the regime of its strategic weapons practically rids it of the ability to govern under an expanded slogan dubbed “the peaceful solution.”
Since approximately two weeks ago, there have been talks of a peaceful solution stipulating that Bashar Al-Assad leaves power at the end of the current year, five months before the date of the presidential elections. It has been said that eliminating Assad was a decision made by the Russians following the chemical weapons crime which pushed the Americans to threaten punitive measures for the first time. It is due to this crime that there is an international front currently willing to participate in a military solution.
The Syrian crisis is getting more complicated, and as it is said, it must get worse before it gets better. The situation in Syria is complicated on several levels. It is complicated on the level of relations between politicians and the diplomats with several roles, Russian and American, and the American president and Congress. There is also the problematic public opinion in Europe, particularly in Britain, rejecting any military operation. There are also Arab pressures. A third Arab effective front has been born out of Saudi, Jordan and the UAE and its officials have been back and forth from Moscow to Paris to London. Let us not forget that Obama has seemingly “woken up” and promised to resort to using his power for the first time since he assumed the presidency. Then Russia surprised us with its proposal that Assad give up his massive stores of chemicals—the same arsenal Assad has denied possessing.
Several political developments happened as a result of what happened in Syria. They were not only a result of the massacre of chemical weapons: I think they were also a result of Bashar Al-Assad’s failure in winning the war despite the massive military support he has received for more than nine months from Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Iraqi factions. All that Assad has achieved is to regain a few towns, like Al-Qusayr, while most of Syria remains outside of his troops’ control. At the same time, the Arab, French and British alliance politically and militarily supporting the opposition has increased.
We tell the opposition what soccer coaches usually say—“stay focused on the ball”—because everything happening on the field may distract the player from the main target. That target is toppling Assad, not punishing him, and this possibility has come closer. As a result, Assad will try to distract the world with several tricks, because he now stands at the edge of the abyss, pushed by the FSA. It has now become possible to topple him using the weapon of the “peaceful solution.” The opposition is angry because the Assad regime will not be targeted with a punitive strike, but it should not be angry because the target is bigger than that. The opposition must demand that Assad be ousted, not that 100 Tomahawk missiles be fired against him. If the Russians accept Assad’s departure, then this means victory for the Syrian revolution.
What is expected is that the “Yemeni solution” will be suggested and that Assad and his comrades will be ousted. In this case, current institutions—particularly the army, along with the political and military opposition leaderships—will be assigned to manage the country. This is a good option that ends with gradually toppling the regime without destroying the country. The worst option is that Assad escapes during the next few months. In this case, fighting will continue among the FSA, independent revolutionary parties, Al-Qaeda affiliated groups, sectarian militias supported by Iran, and other parties. Maintaining institutions means maintaining the state, not the regime. It means maintaining the country’s unity and guaranteeing international, political, military and legal support.
In order for the armed opposition not to lose its case during the negotiations of superpowers in Geneva, its major task remains in winning the war because its victories are what will force all parties to accept it as a major player. It is only through battlefield gains that it can direct the path of the political solution.
Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed
Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed is the general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.