Where are the Syrians?

Where are the Syrians?

Where are the Syrians?
Call me old — fashioned, but I can’t help feeling that when a country’s future is being discussed those directly impacted should have a place at the table, nay at the head of the table. Instead, this ancient Arab heartland is being treated like a plaything by foreign powers.
No Syrian, whether from the regime or the political opposition, was invited to take part in the meetings held in Vienna last week, which smacks of utter arrogance.
The future of these long-suffering people is being mapped out primarily by Russia, Iran and the United States with input from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar and Lebanon that have formed rival blocs with competing blueprints.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov act like best buddies. They’re on a first-name basis, but the smiles belie very real differences. Lavrov is a consummate diplomat but during a press conference, staged to show unity of purpose, he was hard pushed to hide his dismay at the same-day announcement that US Special Forces will be inserted in the country to assist Kurdish fighters and “Arab groups” battling Daesh.
“I am sure that neither the United States nor Russia want (the Syrian conflict) to become a so-called proxy war,” he told reporters. Lavrov also expressed his disappointment that the White House hasn’t heeded his country’s appeals for cooperation on ridding Syria of groups both Moscow and Washington consider terrorist. The US has complained that Russia has bombed their guys, but refuse to handover coordinates.
Once again, the US is not being transparent. For one thing, who are these “moderates” under America’s protection? The suspicion is that less than savory rebel groups un-vetted by the US have been bundled together under a new name.
“Moderates” who were vetted, trained and armed by the CIA and the Pentagon “betrayed their American backers and handed their weapons to Al-Qaeda” affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra, according to The Telegraph. Those programs were recently axed emphasizing that President Obama’s Syrian strategy has been an abject failure, one that was compounded by air-dropped US weapons falling into the hands of Daesh terrorists a year ago, as revealed by the Washington Post.
It’s a stretch to believe that a mere 50 members of the Special Forces are there to make a real difference and one can only wonder whether their presence is little more than a face-saving gesture to show the world that at last Obama means business following over a year of largely ineffective US airstrikes.
It’s all very well for the foreign ministers of those countries to agree upon a political transition beginning with an election to include all Syrians as well as those in the Diaspora, but what about the actors themselves? The idea that battle-hardened killers, particularly foreign fighters wanted in their own countries, would simply relinquish their weapons is pie in the sky; their fate must be sealed. The internationally-recognized Syrian National Council has always said it would never negotiate with a regime that has blood on its hands. And if Assad was keen to disappear into the sunset he would have done so long ago.
Here’s the 64-million-dollar question that still awaits an answer: Were the Assad regime to disappear in a puff of smoke, what would replace it — and, moreover, would a transitional government, perhaps drawn from the Syrian National Council, be able to hold sway over the Syrian military and state institutions?
Various officials say they didn’t want to spoil the party by inviting the protagonists bearing unacceptable preconditions, but if the various sides can’t be trusted to gather in the same room without engaging in verbal fisticuffs, why should anyone think they would agree to format imposed by foreign governments?
Despite hidden agendas and inconsistencies, the foreign ministers agreed that the shape of things to come must be decided by the Syrians themselves at the ballot box. Sounds good, as long as voters can cut a trail to polling stations without being bombed, shot or beheaded!
Peace requires a step-by-step plan. First, all negotiating parties should put hand-to-hand to eliminate terrorists. Second, Hezbollah fighters and Iranian Revolutionary Guard should withdraw. Third, Assad should make good on his pledge to step-aside “if his departure is the solution.” Syrians need help to resolve a four-year-long civil war that’s been leached upon by crazed medieval bloodsuckers. But Syrian representatives of all parties, faiths and sects should not be excluded from the process. They are the ones who’ve paid the price and once the battles are over, they are the only ones with the key to true peace and reconciliation.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view