Syria: What’s next?

Whether it is a conspiracy or a confluence of geopolitical factors, we Syrians must stop dwelling on who hatched them and start dealing with the situation.
Saturday 06/07/2019
What remains. Syrians stand in a street next to debris and rubble from buildings damaged by reported air strikes in Orum al-Kubra in the northern province of Aleppo, last January. (AFP)
What remains. Syrians stand in a street next to debris and rubble from buildings damaged by reported air strikes in Orum al-Kubra in the northern province of Aleppo, last January. (AFP)

Events in Syria have buoyed the morale of regime supporters and dashed opponents’ hopes. No one knows what’s next but there is no going back to the status quo.

No Syrian with a modicum of wisdom can approve of how we got here nor can any one of us like what we’ve got. We Syrians have killed, exiled and made homeless close to half of our own population, with the help of our self-interested neighbours’ moneyed patrons.

Will Syria be partitioned for good? Will its neighbours gain full hegemony over its periphery? Will Syria come together and find a way out of this mess? That’s the question that must be pondered.

Northern Syria is under Turkish (Islamist opposition) control. To a lesser degree the south is under Jordanian (secular opposition) control. The centre and the coast are under regime control (with Iranian and Hezbollah support). The west has been freed of the Islamic State by the regime (with Russian backing) and the Kurds (with US backing). This bodes poorly for Syria and Syrians.

Local hegemonies splintered the country and sometimes they, too, are splintered into smaller corrupt fiefdoms. This disconnectedness suggests that a de facto partitioning is under way. No one wins if Syria is carved up into cantons but this is direction the country is headed.

Despite this, Syria has a unique quality I call a “brand,” a brand that may re-emerge to save the day. Brand Syria is a historic one that rejects partitioning. Brand Syrians (on both sides) believe there is a conspiracy against Syria.

Regime supporters blame Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States, while regime opponents blame the Assads, Iran and Russia. Both sides are to some degree right but conspiracies against Syria are not new. Every country suffers from conspiracies against it and, to paraphrase Sheikh Moaz al-Khatib: Yes, there is a conspiracy against Syria but the way the regime reacted to the conspiracy is what put Syria into this mess, not the conspiracy itself.

Whether it is a conspiracy, a counter-conspiracy or a confluence of geopolitical factors, we Syrians must stop dwelling on who hatched them and start dealing with the situation. We must stop assigning blame and devising retributions and start thinking of a way out. Only by talking to each other and deferring justice can this occur.

I feel the pain of men and women who have lost loved ones and property and I suspect that eventually justice will be served but I caution them to not seek justice before anything else. The world is a flawed place and true justice is elusive. Let’s leave judgment to God and allow love back into our heart. We have it in us but it has been obscured by hate.

Hate for the “other” got us here and we’re not alone. The whole world seems to be affected by this scourge. The difference is that we were asymmetrically devastated by it because we piggybacked it onto our neighbours’ and patrons’ hate for each other.

Let’s face it, our poor hated our rich, our minorities hated our majority, et cetera. However, ask all Syrians how they felt about the Sunni-Shia divide before the war and they would scratch their heads. Ask Syrians how they felt about Iranian mullahs and Saudi sheikhs in 2010 and they would frown. Ask any Syrian how he or she felt about Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama in 2010 and the answer would have been: “I don’t like either.”

Today, we are split evenly on one side of this global divide or the other. Lines have been drawn and sides have been taken to the detriment of Syria.

It’s time we abandon all preconditions and espouse coexistence. Sooner or later we will come to this point. It will be later if we listen to others, sooner if we listen to each other and sooner is better than later.

Despite what is happening in Syria, despite who is supposedly winning and losing, despite everything, the cost of delay and the continuation of this quagmire will be more devastation and a less likely reconciliation.

Let us ask: At what price total regime victory? Let us ask: At what price justice for the opposition? “At any price,” say the followers of Bashar Assad and his arch enemies. This makes no sense.

Let’s stop the hate from within and the hate inspired by others and rekindle our love for one another.

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