The future of Assad

The future of Assad

The future of Assad
Amid the most recent talks about a potential political settlement in Syria, the recurrent question of the future of Bashar Assad has come to fore.
Observers question whether Assad and his family (in addition to the inner circle of the ruling regime) should have any role in the proposed transitional governing body which will be entrusted with the task of restoring security and peace.
To be sure, getting Syria out of the state of civil war entails inclusivity. Meaning, all components of Syria should play a role in the future of Syria. Short of doing that, Syrians will run the risk of perpetuating the crisis. This is the essence of the Geneva final communiqué announced on June 30, 2012.
Western countries as well as the key Arab states argued that Assad should be excluded from the political transition from the get-go. This opinion was dismissed by Iran and Russia. Over the last two years both Iran and Russia have insisted that the opposition could be part of a transitional government while Assad would be presiding over the regime. The role of Assad continues to be a stumbling block in the Syrian crisis.
But it is not as if the Geneva document is definitive. In fact, it is an ambiguous document. While it talks about the transitional governing body, it does not refer to Assad in any way or shape or form. Hence, each side can interpret the Geneva document differently.
The Russians told Assad that they conceded nothing of a value by approving the Geneva document while the Americans told the Syrian opposition that Assad would not be part of any political process. The differences between Washington and Moscow over how to proceed undermined the work of all UN’s envoys including Steffan de Mistura.
Now, it seems that much has changed and Assad is getting weaker and weaker. Given the series of military defeat of Assad forces, a few in the region believe that Assad can survive in the medium or long run. Seen in this way, the Geneva document can gain a new interpretation. And yet, Iran is still in denial. Its initiative, though refers to a transitional government, considers Assad as a key component of the solution rather than a transitional governing body.
Again, the questions whether getting rid of Assad and his inner circle as an outcome of a process or at the beginning of the transitional process is still debated. Iran, and here is the crux of the matter, will find it hard to accept any solution that does not guarantee its interests in Syria.
Therefore, it will continue manoeuvring in bad faith. Iran will most likely maintain its support for Assad until it realizes that its policy has outlived its usefulness.
Russia may change course thus leaving Iran isolated in its position. It seems that Russia is rethinking its policy toward Assad. A few days ago, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that Vladimir Putin has shifted away from his support to Assad’s regime.
If Russia reaches the conclusion that Iran’s unremitting support for Assad will be in vain then President Putin may opt for a different course. He may pull his support from Assad and get closer to the American and Arab positions with regard to the future of Syria and Assad. Given the fluidity and complication of the unfolding situation in Syria, a political settlement could not be more urgent.
The western countries and key Arab states have long maintained that a political solution, to have a desired outcome, cannot include Assad.
In fact, this position represents the lynchpin of Saudi Arabia and its allies.
The tripartite meeting of Kerry, Lavrov, and Al-Jubeir in Doha last week should lay the ground for a more coordinated strategy to reach a political settlement enabling the Syrians to dethrone Assad in order to form a front to fight terrorism.
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