A conflict of strategies on the part of the countries that are intervening in Syria is more worrying, dodgy and deleterious. It is a no-brainer that victory against ISIS will be hard to attain if Russia and USA continue to repel each other.
The bone of contention is Assad; the man USA believes is standing in the way of peace while Russia espouses a contrarian perspective, taking him to be a critical instrument in the fight against ISIS. USA has put her bet on the rebels who are fighting Assad whereas Russia treats them the same way as ISIS.
What is the way forward? Not simple but it is there. Not in black and white but both countries under analysis can see it if they seek the good of Syria and the whole world.
Is Assad important for this cause? Where would ISIS thrive? Where there is less disorder or where there is more disorder? Can the Rebels be trusted? If Assad is removed by force, would his supporters just go to sleep or become another group that would bring further complications? Can Assad manipulate anybody who shares intelligence with him to kill those who genuinely and peacefully oppose him?
First, if Assad is removed through undemocratic methods, his supporters would be another radical group on the street that, inevitably, alas, at a great loss of resources and human life, might fight back. This would make this battle more complicated- mind boggles to proactive minds!
It is a common belief that this war has a sectarian and ethnic face, in that, the rebels from the Sunni majority, who are fragmented, between them many an abyss; want to get into government without a nationwide appeal and flush out the Alawites, any Christians and some Sunni representatives whom they regard as traitors. Is sponsoring these rebels a way to democracy?
Recall that the Guardian after the 2014 elections, on 16th July, quoted Assad saying, “The failed revolution was an act of foreign aggression through local agents.” A cloud applauded, and unlike our old democracies, apart from the Government military forces, a good number of the people in this group are able fighters, the shabiha and all to that effect; these being sympathisers who, with the Army, would interpret manoeuvres other than democratic methods as an indirect foreign rule. Hence removing him through military methods may just yield another Iraq or Libya.
Further, BBC reported on 5th June, 2014 that the Supreme Constitutional Court said 11.63million out of a total 15.85million voted in the 2014 elections, which translated to 73.47% turnout. Of course, western Countries and China commented that the elections were not inclusive. This is what must be corrected using a fair political solution. If results of the 2014 elections show that the 26.13% who did not vote wouldn’t have made the opposition overtake the winner who had a landslide, then it dilutes the complaints. But that is not a foregone conclusion because bias always boasts even when naked. Hence, no stone should be left unturned. Western countries said the elections were not fair, it is possible that Bashar al-Assad tilted the vote in his own favour but, on the other hand, it may also be a profound statement from the people that the rebels are more fierce than the so labelled ‘ illegitimate Government of Assad’.
Can rebels be trusted? Pessimism be my perch. Let’s use logic. If you train rebels who turn themselves into the hands of terrorists and get assimilated, what probability is there that if a contraband of heavy weapons is given to a particular rebel group, most of those weapons won’t end up in the hands of ISIS together with a good number of those rebels?
Are not these rebels, in fact, getting in the way of the Government soldiers and reducing their thrust in the war against ISIS? Isn’t their pressure on Government soldiers with the use of western weapons creating room for ISIS who are, without doubt, looting riches and making themselves more powerful with every passing minute at the expense of human life?
After getting rid of Assad, perish the thought, what guarantee is there that these rebels will not fight against themselves and in the process, spill more blood in a protracted sectarian war before the fittest takes office?
Facing those incorrigible Selafists and wahhabists, who now are in their right environment of violence and unrestrained chaos, one wonders how the moderate Islamist groups with a few other well meaning Syrians would rise to power and not be overtaken. Another concern is that some of the moderate Islamists being empowered by the USA with weapons may turn into ruthless militia, working under the new government if, against all odds, it comes to existence.
Who is our biggest evil, Assad confined to his fixed aboard in Syria or ISIS who fly from Country to Country, selling their evil ideology to other jihadists? To be frank, Assad is a Lion with no speed who can’t overtake his challengers, the rebels, if USA and Russia are to hold him with an Irony fist in a glove.
So what would fit the bill for Russia and USA? Does one need to bury the hatchet?
This is no time to play hide and seek. It is no time to waste. Neither political rhetoric nor competition should be given priority over consensus and co-ordination.
So how should global Allies pursue peace in Syria?
First, USA and Russia ought to come together and persuade Bashar al-Assad, in this desperate situation, to agree that Syria should hold early democratic heavily monitored elections as soon as the fight against ISIS comes to an end, on condition that the ‘well meaning rebels’ suspend their fight against Assad forces and concentrate on engaging ISIS under the supervision of USA and Russia, a balanced supervision in my view. It may be fruitful also for the whole NATO to abstain from taking sides between rebels and Bashar al-Assad, put their act together, in order to be efficient and effective.
Assad must agree that the election will be strictly monitored by monitors from around the globe and all the people who did not vote in the rebel held areas in 2014 will have a bite at the cherry this time around. Bear in mind that the backbone of Assad is composed of Russia and Iran who would accept persuading him, in the presence of USA, to promise fresh elections after the fall of ISIS in order to be an irreproachable leader of a legitimate government because both Russia and Iran want clean names following the painful period of sanctions.
To be strange bedfellows in times of crisis, as long as one be not yoked with a murderer, is usually a restraint message to the most vicious enemy lurking in the back yard whereas one upmanship is like trying to stand on one leg in a blizzard. Russia and USA have to wear this cap if it fits.
There is no big risk posed to Russia in acquiring some strategic intelligence from Assad like military capabilities, geography, political assessments, culture and verify it. At the operational level, however, information from Assad may be detrimental to attaining a qualitative political solution which is on the cards because Assad is also human, susceptible to temptation; on that score, it is critical to eliminate the foreboding of western nations that he may be tempted to give Russia lists of his enemies branding them as Terrorists- leave no room for suspicion. If Assad is popular, he will win clean elections. But if his soldiers are attacked, they have every right to defend themselves.
NATO is saying Assad shouldn’t be part of the future political solution, a decision which is not consistent with the fundamental principles of democracy. What lifespan would a minority rebel group have in Government? Why didn’t NATO learn in Libya, Alfaganistan and Iraq that more militia always appear from the woodwork after a disciplinarian or Autocratic government is ousted in Arabic countries and begin to fight for the vacancy with the only language they know, weapons? Then, more gloom and doom! More often than not, the small rebel groups transform into bigger monsters than the monster they succeed. Meaning, until more riches accrue to their accounts, serenity never returns.
In the event that the rebels refuse to fight ISIS first with all resources available, surmise that they don’t give a hoot if the Country is shared between ISIS and them. Whoever cares for the country must fight ISIS first so as to stop them from enriching themselves too much and become invincible sharks. Leave them to their own devices, Assad will tame them or bomb them from the air as a coalition, giving them the same sour cake as ISIS to make Syria habitable to good human beings.
Politically, USA would be criticised to have changed horses in midstream by getting on a Russian horse but the people of Syria may be accorded a chance to rise to higher dignities step by step using civil means. It would be the worst political move in the short term but the best humanitarian move. Politics was meant to serve humanity and not humanity to serve politics at all costs.
By no means of imagination would nations intervening in Syria using uncoordinated strategies win the war in the face of antagonism without being relegated to uncivilisation and much grief.