Syria Ceasefire: a Bid for Time
By: Abdel Wahab Badrakhan Translated from Al-Hayat (Pan Arab).
As UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi embarked on his mission in Syria, certain analysts claimed that his appointment was merely meant to gain time. This kind of talk also applies to his call for a ceasefire on the occasion of Eid al-Adha. It is intended to buy time before several phases: the post-US-elections period, the exploration of political-solution scenarios, the clarification of ways to reinforce the opposition's military operations and the finalization of arrangements to establish safe zones in northern and southern Syria to increase the pressure on the Syrian regime.
About This Article
Few believe the Syria ceasefire will hold, Abdel Wahab Badrakhan writes. UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi's call for an Eid al-Adha holiday cessation of hostilities was meant to buy time for exploring a political solution and establishing safe zones.Publisher: Al-Hayat (Pan Arab)
Next Target: Two Safe Zones in Northern and Southern Syria
Author: Abdel Wahab Badrakhan
First Published: October 25, 2012
Posted on: October 26 2012
Translated by: Sami-Joe Abboud and Sahar Ghoussoub
Categories : Security Syria
In other words, no one really believes that this ceasefire will hold. It is true that one must support the idea from both humanitarian and moralistic perspectives, but such factors have never played a role in the regime's decision-making. Add to this that the regime still considers itself "the state" and it is engaged in a confrontation with "terrorists." It thus does not seriously consider the possibility of a ceasefire — it seeks to push the "rebels" into surrendering and then kill them.
For their part, the opposition clearly says, "We are not the aggressors, but the victims, and it is the aggressors who should cease their fire."
These stances were clear upon Brahimi’s arrival in Damascus. The military councils set conditions for this call to be heeded. Some of these conditions recall the Kofi Annan plan (releasing detainees, sending medical and relief assistance to Homs, stopping air strikes and moving tanks), although it is now known that none of this is possible. The regime believes that by responding to these demands, it would be conceding to the "gangs" it invented in a bid to justify its own crimes.
The regime, in turn, set a difficult — rather impossible — condition when it linked any cessation of violence with a halt on arming the opposition on the part of outside states. However, observers noted — and the regime is fully aware of this — that this armament imposed itself after the crisis could not be Arabized or internationalized, more than a full year after the start of the peaceful uprising. Uprisings like this are inevitably militarized at later stages.
The desire to take up arms crystallized after the regime proved its lack of legitimacy and became just another party in the fight. Had the regime really been the state, as it claims, it would have acted responsibly, and responsibility does not mean arbitrary killings, massacres, torture and deliberate humiliation. Because the regime is a party that lacks legitimacy and receives weapons from Russia, Iran and North Korea, and since the Russian-Chinese veto disrupted any legitimate international intervention, taboos were broken and there only two choices were left for outside states: allowing people to be killed, or providing them with something to defend themselves.
A truce is to the benefit of both parties, and particularly the people. It can serve as a "rest for warriors," or a rest for people afflicted and still holding on. It can enable non-combatants to actually register that it is a religious holiday, and that there is no harm in such a holiday. Finally, it can help grieving parents remember their loved ones, the ones they lost and the ones who left.
But if you think about it, Syrians have lived through many holidays amid bloodshed and cruelty without anyone in the deaf international community thinking about them. Therefore, the only holiday that the people care for at the moment is that which will mark the fall of the regime.
The reasons previously mentioned may not be enough for the regime to accept "the Eid truce." And even if it does, it would be doing so to improve its position in preparation for attacks or for lifting the siege on that its troops ae under in several places — like in Aleppo or, especially, in Idlib, where some of them were forced to surrender after spending a long time without ammunition.
Even if the ceasefire did hold, it would not in any way mean that the usual peaceful demonstrations — the backbone of the uprising that the regime suppressed for long — wouldn't be there. Let us remember that the regime failed to respect them since the Omari Mosque massacre in Daraa.
When Brahimi called on "all parties" to cease fire through "individual decisions," he was looking forward to voluntary participation. This is consistent with his mission’s approach. In fact, he suggested the idea hoping that the parties would make it their own initiative. Thus, he may be intending to adopt the same approach politically should the opportunity arise.
However, the gap between the two sides of the conflict is widening. Each one of them is hoping to make a drastic change in the field that would enhance its negotiating position. Hence, they are both not interested in a free truce that could undermine the regime’s “sovereignty,” which the Syrian government still entertains hope of safeguarding. For the opposition, on the other hand, such a truce will be a waste of time, which the regime will know how to tilt to its own advantage. As long as this truce is dependent on both parties’ willingness to implement it, it will remain a mere test, which Brahimi believes will not invalidate his mission, which is already failed anyway.
Aside from the fuss and the expected controversy that was created by the cease-fire proposal, some ideas are brewing and workshops are taking place far away from the spotlight. Most importantly, there has been clarification of 1) the requirements for a “political solution,” 2) the requirements for the development of the opposition and 3) the requirements for changing the situation on the ground.
The content of the proposal Tehran made to Brahimi has yet to be announced. But the rumors circulating do not signal anything new. The proposal allegedly suggested that the 2014 elections will determine whether Bashar al-Assad will leave or remain in office. According to Tehran, during the biennial period until 2014, the “transitional government” will be led by Vice President Farouk al-Shara.
Let us assume that the Iranian proposal will pave the way for a solution. One must note that Iran demanded that both the military and the security institutions remain intact during the transitional period, as a prerequisite, in order to safeguard Assad’s authority and therefore the interests of Iran, Russia and the regime’s other allies.
So where is the “solution” in such a proposal? What can we expect from a “transitional government” that will be led by the shabiha (government-armed thugs)? This issue has already been settled by the revolution, and there is no turning back.
The most surprising thing is that the projects put forth by the Russians, Iranians and the rest of the allies do not recognize what has been happening in Syria for nearly two years. Thus, their proposals remain unrealistic.
On the other hand, the development of the opposition forces is moving forward in several Arab capitals. The “friends of the Syrian People” are frantically and chaotically competing to share in Syria’s future, whether at the political or the security level.
Apart from the US, the Europeans and the Turks, some Arabs are also involved in the conflict, but only with the tacit approval of the US. According to some sources, the idea of a transitional government is gaining ground. It has been also said that it will be headed by defected and “accepted” figures, which will include some opposition members.
Forming such a government will obviously require control over the interventions and a harmony between Syria’s "friends.” This is what the US is ostensibly set to do, as soon as the elections are over, in the event Obama was re-elected. However, should Obama lose, this procedure will be delayed until Mitt Romney is inaugurated and his administration is ready.
The Syrian National Council (SNC) will decidedly no longer be the largest opposition group. An SNC conference will be held in Doha next week, with two main goals. First, it will seek to expand the SNC’s base of representation and consolidate its ties at home. Second, a new secretary-general and president are to be elected.
The SNC will remain the most prominent group involved in the revolutionary movement at home, at both the military and the political levels. However, since it has proven itself unable to gather all of the myriad opposition factions under its banner, international powers have been pushed to consider other leadership, consisting of the available experienced cadres, to lead in the upcoming phase.
Regarding the change in the situation on the ground, experts conceded that the Syrian forces still have the upper hand in terms of weaponry. However, their stance is starting to deteriorate in the north and south, clearing the way for the establishment of two safe regions. Such safe zones are necessary to consolidate the armed opposition, allowing it to protect the areas it has seized. Moreover, these zones will serve as the political opposition and the transitional government’s foothold. They will also be used to accommodate displaced people.
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