Monday, September 30, 2013

The West has a second chance in Syria, and must seize it

"... The West’s fundamental mistake has been consistently to underestimate the Assad regime’s resilience. Despite its brutality, the regime retains a substantial base of supporters who are willing to fight to the death to prevent its collapse. Indeed, many Syrians believe that they have no future if Assad’s government collapses – a belief that has been reinforced as the civil war’s dividing lines have become increasingly sectarian. With the physical survival of regime supporters seemingly at stake, the expectation of a quick collapse was illusory.More problematic, the West’s loud calls for Assad’s exit from power, though now muted, have given false hope to the opposition, while Russia has been hiding behind the rhetoric of a “Syrian-led process” to avoid confronting its international responsibilities. But a diplomatic solution guided by the Security Council’s permanent members is the only credible path to peace. The alternative – an attempt at negotiation between Syria’s government and an increasingly fragmented opposition – would serve only to prolong the war and raise the death toll.
Likewise, the West must recognize that reconciliation in Syria will be impossible without there being reconciliation between the Sunni and Shiite regimes in the wider region. Several of the Sunni-ruled Gulf monarchies view Syria’s crisis and the prospect of Assad’s demise as an opportunity to compensate for Iraq’s rapprochement with Iran following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-led regime and the emergence of a Shiite-led government..."

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