Why A Negotiated Settlement In Syria Is Not An Option At This Point


Photo: AP

In recent weeks international players have called for a political settlement to the ongoing civil war in Syria. It’s been part of an attempt to end widespread violence and prevent a sectarian war between the mostly Sunni rebels and the rest of the country.But negotiated peace would actually prolong the conflict at this point, according to Middle East analysts Bilal Y. Saab and Andrew J. Tabler in Foreign Affairs.

The newest draft from the Syrian opposition involves implementing a transitional justice system that would impose harsh penalties against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s inner circle while providing amnesty for Alawite supporters who fear revenge killings if the regime falls.

Saad and Tabler argue that a compromise would actually “perpetuate Assad’s favourite strategy — honed over decades — of using the threat of sectarian war to make his adversaries in the international community wary of getting involved,” so the best case scenario is a “decisive and complete” victory by the rebels over the regime.

But that doesn’t seem to be imminent either. 

Last week Patrick Cockburn of The Independent reported from Syria that “Syrians face a political and military stalemate” since rebel offensives on Aleppo and Damascus “have faltered, but the government forces do not have the strength to push them out of enclaves they have taken over.”

Even a massive transfusion of much-needed money, training and guns for the rebels wouldn’t immediately have a decisive impact, and hopes that Assad’s hardline inner circle will defect have waned.

Cockburn noted that the 21-month conflict “long ago reached the stage of what in Northern Ireland we used to call ‘the politics of the last atrocity,’ in which too much blood is being spilled to allow for negotiation and compromise.”

Nevertheless, Cockburn concluded that barring full-scale foreign intervention, “a negotiated settlement is becoming inevitable though it may be a long time coming.”

Joshua Landia, a Syria expert who argued that Assad could eventually flee to his ancestral homeland, believes that Assad could hold on to power into 2014 given that he has barricaded the major cities and is bombing less important neighborhoods that rebels capture while both the rebels and their international backers lack a cohesive plan to topple the regime.

The deteriorating situation —which has claimed more than 60,000 lives — and lack of concrete actions to curb the violence led UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to say that the international community has “fiddled at the edges while Syria burns.”

SEE ALSO: The US Is Waging An All-Out Proxy War With Russia In Syria

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