Local solutions should come first in Syria

ARTICLE – Since Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan’s visit to Damascus last week, the discourse in the international community has centered on whether or not to talk to Bashar Assad. Actually, what the international community should do is move from a normative discourse to a more practical one. It should talk to whoever makes a difference on the ground.

The UN-backed meetings in Geneva are not representative of the people, nor can they make a difference on the ground. Assad, despite the claim he has control over 70 percent of the country, in reality has no real control over any part of the country. His army is nothing but a collection of gangs and fragments ruled by Assad-affiliated warlords that take the name “shabiha.” The only two legions that have a cohesive command and control structure are the 4th Armored Division of Maher Assad, which is under Iranian control, and the Tiger Forces commanded by Suhail Al-Hassan that take orders directly from the Russian base of Hmeimim.

So, even if Assad agreed to anything, would he be able to enforce it? Not really. On the other hand, the opposition that meets in Geneva, how much are they in touch with the people on the ground? Again, if they agree to anything, could they enforce it on the ground? Is the armed opposition accountable to them? Not really, the armed opposition is as fragmented as the Syrian army and is only accountable to its foreign backers.

This is only regarding the domestic actors. If we talk about the regional and global players, the situation gets even more complicated. Can we have an agreement whereby the US, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and Iran are all on the same page regarding Syria? Very unlikely.

There is no one solution for the entirety of Syria simply because the landscape is not the same in the different parts of the country. The landscape in the northeast is different from Idlib, which is also different from the southwest and the areas bordering Lebanon. The actors are also different. Jordan is very active in the southwest because it is next to its borders, whereas it has no presence in Idlib.


Read the article written by Dania Koleilat Khatib on Arabnews.