Syria, an Unresolved Tragedy

Op-Ed by Ahmad al Romh

After the Doha meeting has resulted in recommendations, apparently directed to the Western decision-makers, analysts were assured that the opposition, failed within the eleven years of the Syrian tragedy, cannot be recycled to produce a solution, that failure to manage a humanitarian issue does not mean changing the goal, but certainly means changing the players who represented this issue, after they failed in everything else.

The contemplator of the political and military events and developments taking place in Syria sees that the Syrian tragedy has entered a semi-final stage, regarding the military issue, with the political track remaining idle, or solvable under Russian and Iranian terms, with US blindness to the tragedy experienced by Syrians inside.

The stability of the military influence regions

Field facts on Syrian soil indicate that the military reality has settled in areas of influence distributed among local players, each of them associated with a regional or international player. The first region is the one controlled by the Syrian regime with Russian and Iranian patronage and protection, with intense competition between the parties involved over this area of influence.

The second region is controlled by the “Syrian National Army”, which represents what is left with the armed Syrian opposition, most of whom are Islamist factions, with an ideology ranges between jihadist Salafism (Jabhat al-Nusra) and political Islam represented by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. This region is under Turkish influence, protecting these factions and supports them to be the winning horse in Syria.

The third region is the Kurdish Autonomous Administration, dominated by the PYD, the political wing of the PKK, which Ankara classifies as a terrorist group. It is an area of US influence, where American forces are present, providing the political and military cover for the PYD.

There are also small pockets of ISIS here and there. The Islamic State no longer retains a specific area, nor a force that constitutes a difference in the field. It is no longer more than a tool used by this or that country against its opponents, and to justify its presence on Syrian soil and its carrying of arms.

Why the Syrian tragedy is still unresolved?

The difficulty of changing the active states’ positions on Syrian geography!

Each country asks the other countries to achieve a demand that they are unable to achieve, because the regional and international reality has almost settled on political and diplomatic transformations, making it impossible to achieving such a requirement, because a policy change between these countries, before they concede on Syrian soil, would be mandatory.

For example, the Russian requirement to recognize its role in Syria and legitimize it in any political agreement is to expel the Iranians from Syria, and to lay out a possible road map for the political transition in Syria.

Iran’s Complex Presence in Syria

It is impossible for Russia to expel Iran from Syria. The most it can do is reducing Iranian influence spheres here or there. While the issue of expelling Iran from Syria is far-fetched – because Iran is a regional state, and it has exploited the past ten years to strengthen its military and political influence in the Arab arenas (Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon) – it practically becomes conductor of the decision-making part in the capitals of those countries. Not to mention that negotiating over the Iranian nuclear capabilities at present makes Iran more clinging to get as many concessions as possible nuclear.

The Turkish role in the Syrian crisis

It is impossible for Turkey to contemplate stopping its support for the “Syrian National Army,” as long as the autonomy imposed by the PYD in northeastern Syria and the US/Turkish rivalry exists. It is what makes America not think about withdrawing its forces – at least for the time being – from northeastern Syria, as long as Turkish-US relations stay tense (beside Turkey’s relationship with NATO and the EU). With a clear Turkish quest to head east towards China and Russia, an ideological approach, as Turkish democracy is retreating day after day from its liberal “Western” features towards totalitarian ones.

The political and diplomatic transformations in the region

These transformations indicate that none of the regional and international countries are thinking about the issue of a military solution here or there, as negotiations have started in more than one track (the nuclear agreement, the Iranian/Saudi negotiations). Moreover, the political antagonism or the general orientation of some policies has become clear in the coming years.

Is a political solution possible?

The political solution according to Moscow and Tehran means reproducing the regime in some form, making some formal changes without touching the substance. This matter is not only approved by Russian, Iranian and Chinese godfathers, but also by a group of Arab states and Turkey, which are not concerned with Assad’s departure, as much as maintaining new spheres of influence, preventing the Kurds from forming any autonomy in Syria.

It also seems almost clear that the US, with its new administration, has no problem with this solution. This is what we can conclude from the US statements that focus on a just political solution, and without any talk about the departure of Assad and a regime change.

There is also Israel, which manages some moves in the game behind the scenes, as its main concern is focused on its security.

The only party that appears to be publicly committed to finding a just and real political solution in Syria, still maintaining its discourse in this regard, is the EU. But also, if we look at the policy of each of the EU countries separately, only a few countries still maintain a hard-line discourse against the system.

As long as almost everyone agrees that Assad’s departure is not possible and that nominal change may be acceptable and possible, why is there no political solution on this basis?

What is the implicitly agreed solution?

Reflecting on the foregoing in light of the military reality imposed on the ground and the open regional files, it turns out that the issue is not in the process of a possible solution, as much as it lies in the possibility of compatibility between the conflicting interests of these countries in Syria and elsewhere.

Thus, only the second option remains, what we can call a de-facto solution: things remain as they are, without a solution, Assad can stay, the Syrian tragedy will remain unresolved for another two decades.

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