Lebanon Pulse

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Destroyed buildings on a deserted street in Homs, Jan. 30, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Yazan Homsy)

Syria Between Dialogue and Disaster

Author: Nassif Hitti Posted February 18, 2013

Almost two years after the eruption of the Syrian crisis, which rapidly transformed into a bloody conflict, Syria today bears an increasing resemblance to a plane without a pilot in full flight command. Thus the whole issue becomes one of maneuvering the plane into making a safe landing once it reaches its still unknown destination. This means reaching an inclusive and widely accepted agreement at home, for the sake of the reaching the day after, regardless of the nature of that day.

SummaryPrint As the Syrian conflict intensifies, Nassif Hitti argues that the only way out of the crisis is through a mutual understanding between the regime and opposition based on the Geneva Declaration.
Author Nassif Hitti Posted February 18, 2013

This will be an agitated period, which most probably will extend in time, leading to a different, more complex kind of crisis: a situation that does not preclude more violence. In other words, if the plane crashes, it could have a dramatic effect on the passengers (i.e., Syrian citizens) and the crash site (i.e., the Arab East) alike.

Already, kidnapping and killing along sectarian lines are becoming part of the game, which suggests a Lebanonization of the conflict. One could also observe increasing sectarian tension in Iraq emanating from any political crisis, regardless of its nature, because of the internal positioning on Syria. Indeed, a main factor of the recent buildup of tension and sectarian demonstrations in Iraq is a byproduct of the fight in Syria and for Syria.

The same and more could be said about Lebanon, where the outcome of the fight in Syria would have a major effect on the existing balance of power in the already polarized Lebanese political conflict. This is a conflict between a Sunni minority, the March 14 Alliance, and a Shiite majority, the March 8 Alliance, leading the two alliances to support, through different ways, their Syrian allies while exchanging accusations of not respecting the policy of distancing themselves from the Syrian crisis.

Jordan, too, is under enormous pressure from many of the regional opponents to the regime in Damascus for adopting a policy of relative constraint reflecting the fear of the unknown, rather than engaging fully in war by proxy against the Assad regime. Meanwhile Syria is becoming over time a land of jihad, a military theater for the international Islamist jihadist movement. Regardless of who is responsible for this Afganization of the situation, it is feeding the sectarian dimension of the conflict in the Arab East.

Meanwhile, it is forcing those who are opposed to the regime and hoping for its change to rethink their approach to reach that end. Between the wishful thinking of the two parties who are promising the crushing defeat of their enemy and the reality of the absence of any serious perspective for a genuine political solution to the same conflict, Syria is slipping into a slow disintegration, a process that many powers which support the change of the regime do prefer as the least bad option to an all out war, with its unforeseen consequences on their interests.

War is proving to be a non-foreseeable option to settle the conflict for both sides, which at the same time are both unwilling and unable to work towards a political solution because of exclusive conditions. The only way out to save Syria lies in working out an understanding based on the Geneva Declaration, brokered by Washington and Moscow, on a peaceful settlement process that will get the support of their respective allies on the conflict. This will thus bring the government and the opposition to a UN accompanied and committed negotiation process; this is the only game in town to get Syria out of this costly bloody conflict.

For the time being, Syria is turning from a key player in the Middle East into the major playground for Middle East regional politics.

Ambassador Nassif Hitti is head of the Arab League Mission in Paris, a permanent observer at UNESCO and a member of the Al-Monitor board of directors. The views he presents here are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/02/syrian-conflict-effects-region.html

Nassif Hitti
Contributor, Lebanon Pulse

Ambassador Nassif Hitti is a senior Arab League official and the former head of the Arab League Mission in Paris. He is a former representative to UNESCO and a member of the Al-Monitor board of directors. The views he presents here are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

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