Only Syrians can save Syria

Syrians need to stop believing in the fantasy of a magical solution perpetrated by populist slogans that prove to be disastrous for the country and its citizens.
Sunday 14/10/2018
Vague promises. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a plenary session at the Congress of Syrian National Dialogue in Sochi, last January. (AFP)
Vague promises. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a plenary session at the Congress of Syrian National Dialogue in Sochi, last January. (AFP)

What can be inferred from Russia’s focus on the issues of a new constitution and elections in Syria is its wish to misguide international public opinion into believing that a political settlement has been reached with the participation of all Syrians.

By “all Syrians,” Russia means “those who have decided to sit together within the context of a constitutional committee representing all Syrians.” This committee will supposedly ignore the concepts of opposition and loyalty and concentrate on drafting a “balanced” constitution that would lead to elections. Then the Syrian file would be closed as far as the international community is concerned.

The problem with this approach is that the Syrian drama will not be resolved by resorting to a constitution that will mean nothing to the Syrian regime while its oppressive security apparatus exists. This apparatus exists thanks to Russian and Iranian support.

The Syrian opposition is far from a united body to negotiate with. It lacks leadership and legitimacy. The opposition in Syria has been playing cards in the hands of regional and international forces. These forces are seeking to pass a fake solution to the Syrian crisis. They might bring about a temporary truce but the problem will be far from resolved.

Indeed, different opposition factions have exchanged accusations and there have been demonstrations questioning the competence of the High Negotiations Committee and its legitimacy as representing the will of all Syrians.

This means that the distance between present circumstance and the final settlement desired by all opposing Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime is wide.

What is being undertaken in the Syrian file by international powers does not go beyond sustaining their priorities in the region first and their desire to negotiate solutions between themselves and for themselves, be it in Syria or elsewhere.

For each of the countries that have a military presence in Syria, the Syrian card is a mere tool for settling internal or regional and international scores.

In the meantime, the Syrian people have become convinced that the keys to their fate are no longer in their hands. What they are getting are vague promises that they understand as being mere wishful thinking that do not even convince their emitters, let alone the Syrian people.

The international powers might agree on some solution in Syria, just for the sake of pretending that the crisis has been resolved. The Syrians, however, know that the desired settlement is far from being born through the approach being adopted. It will never work without implicating all Syrians themselves.

Relying only on the opposition that exists outside Syria will not do. The latter have proven its inability to perform the tasks required of its members. The reasons behind their failure are many.

There is opposition inside Syria. Anti-regime activists have amassed tremendous experience and know the intricacies and sensitivities of the Syrian reality. They can bring all Syrians together around a national project designed by everybody and for everybody.

By necessity, this project would have to break the cycle of oppression and terrorism and lay the foundations for a state trusted by all elements of Syrian society. Such a project must be based on respecting everyone’s rights and specificities. It must make room for all those who are qualified, without discrimination, to serve society and build a future.

When we refer to the opposition inside Syria, we are not referring to the domesticated opposition, those groups artificially implanted by the regime or the Russians or the Iranians.

The opposition we speak of is represented by the huge reserves of competences and goodwill among young Syrians. It is those extremely competent young men and women who have concluded that the only solution for Syria is a Syrian-Syrian agreement, based on mutual respect and a commitment for improving the foundations for living together.

We must strive to put together a solid core of committed youth, capable of working with the different components of society without prejudice or vengeful inclinations.

As to the opposition groups outside Syria, it must be left up to the internal opposition to decide on how to include them in the peace-building process. What is important is that preparations must be made to deal with the reality that what is truly desirable cannot be achieved easily but will require time, tremendous effort and great sacrifice.

Syrians need to stop believing in the fantasy of a magical solution perpetrated by populist slogans that prove to be disastrous for the country and its citizens.

7