Syria Crisis and the Option of Dialogue

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ali Akbar Asadi
PhD Candidate, University of Allameh Tabatabaei & Expert on Middle East Issues

For almost two years, the Syria crisis has led to widespread unrest and violent domestic clashes in the Arab country. It has also caused a great deal of loss of life and property for the people in this country, including the killing of several thousands of the Syrian people as well as governmental and opposition forces; destruction of the country’s facilities and infrastructures; and homelessness of a great number of the Syrian people. The crisis and the subsequent wave of violence has undermined stability and security in the country and has led to an influx of extremist foreign fighters into Syria, which has further complicated the Arab country’s crisis on top of other domestic disputes and conflicts. Of course, some analysts expected that the Syrian government would fall as a result of the unrest like what had already taken place in some other Arab countries such as Libya and Egypt, especially because of the military approach taken by a certain part of the Syrian opposition. However, later developments in Syria proved that no single formula and prescription, or at least no similar formulas, can be applied to all emerging crises in the Arab world, but developments in every country take disparate courses as a function of those countries' domestic features and regional coordinates. As a result, to quench the crisis in every country, a special solution is needed which should conform to specific characteristics of that crisis. In view of this issue and due to inefficiency of military option to provide a solution to Syria crisis, it seems that the option of dialogue and political reconciliation could be the best way to settle the ongoing crisis in this Arab country. The main issue which needs more explanation here is which components and factors make political dialogue the best solution to the Syria crisis.

Review of the political developments in Syria during the past two years will reveal a set of realities which can be used to explain why dialogue is a better option compared to other available options. The first reality is the deadlock which both the government and the opposition are currently facing from military and security standpoints. The current situation is a stalemate in which neither the government has enough power to restore complete stability and security and defeat the opposition forces, nor are the opposition forces able to bring the Syrian government down despite the false hope that some media outlets are trying to give them. As a result of this situation, domestic war and violence has been continuing between the two sides with some ups and down and there is no doubt that continuation of the ongoing war will only cause more losses of life and property.

The second issue which is of import in this regard is that even if the opposition groups succeeded to topple the government of [the incumbent President Bashar] Assad through foreign supports, there will be no bright outlook for the restoration of stability and security to Syria for, at least, a decade to come. The reason is the current composition of the opposition forces as well as wide ethnic and religious divides and gaps in Syria, especially the presence of Al-Qaeda extremist forces in the form of Al-Nusra Front. On the opposite, the downfall of the existing government will even increase insecurity and violence in Syria in an exponential manner. Therefore, no other serious outcome is conceivable for the continuation of military faceoff between the government and the opposition forces, but persistence and escalation of violence and insecurity.

Another important point about the crisis in Syria is that some cases of unrest and protests in Syria, which were overshadowed by military actions against the government, were quite similar to the wave of protests in other Arab countries and had their root in the inefficiency of the government, and the weakness of the existing structures as well as political and economic methods. As a result, the best solution to these problems was not military confrontation, but the two sides should have tried to find peaceful and low-cost options for introducing reforms and creating suitable changes in the political system and the government's methods in order to meet people’s rightful demands.

Apart from domestic coordinates of the Syria crisis, the regional and international dimensions and realities of this crisis all point to the necessity of broad-based dialogue between the Syrian government and all political groups as the best possible solution to the country’s crisis. The important point at regional level is that continuation of civil war and violence in Syria can have very destructive and dangerous consequences for the whole region and may even give birth to ethnic and sectarian conflicts or outright war among governments. The reason is the important strategic position of this country and its links to a wide spectrum of social groups and political players across the region. At the same time, no remarkable consensus on the crisis in Syria has been reached by regional states. Thus, even those states that oppose the Syrian government have different viewpoints on the continuation of a military approach to the crisis. Therefore, intermediate solutions based on dialogue and negotiations among domestic political groups with large-scale support from other regional states, instead of unnecessary meddling, can offer a way out of the crisis. The important point is that all regional players should remain content to a lower level of the realization of their interests which would be safer. They should also suffice to intermediate solutions instead of seeking the realization of a maximum degree of their interests. Otherwise, the subsequent spread of the Syria war to the entire region can lead to a lose-lose game for all involved parties.

At international level, the nature of the approach taken by the big global powers to Syria crisis has proven that no consensus exists among them on how to put an end to this crisis in a way that would benefit only one of the two belligerent parties, namely the government of Syria or the opposition. In the meantime, the West, Russia, or China are not apparently ready to pay the maximum cost of a change in Syria situation and despite their insistence on their positions, all of them prefer to make the most of the possible consequences of the Syria crisis at the lowest cost. Therefore, since the Syria crisis and any military solution to it can have serious consequences for international security, and as certain interactions among big powers have recently shown, finding intermediate solutions is more important and more favorable to those powers. As a result, even at international level, more priority is currently being attached to some form of agreement on dialogue and political solution compared to the earlier stages of the crisis, instead of unilateral solutions based on military violence.

On the whole, as violence and domestic conflicts in Syria are escalating, the fate of the Syria crisis has turned into a matter of credit for some foreign players. However, many analysts believe that the crisis is past the political dialogue and reconciliation, and the final result of the crisis can be only determined through military action. Nonetheless, a glance at the ongoing developments and objective realities at various levels is enough to prove that in view of the possibility of prolonged war and violence in Syria, only one conclusion can be clearly asserted irrespective of all the existing differences, challenges and desperate issues. That conclusion is that apart from the option of dialogue, other options would only result in the continuation and escalation of Syria crisis and will by no means lead to its resolution.

Key Words: Syria Crisis, Option of Dialogue, Opposition Forces, Military and Security Standpoints, Ethnic and Religious Divides, Al-Qaeda, Global Powers, Asadi

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