In the last few weeks, Russian officials have relentlessly repeated that the solution to the Syrian crisis was contingent upon a consensus of the Syrian people. Moscow confirmed earlier that Russia “will be delighted if the Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad, steps down as per a Syrian consensus.”
Russia’s repetitive statements on the necessity of a national consensus in Syria to overcome the ordeal remind Lebanese political observers of the infamous slogan that the former and present Syrian leadership used to adopt regarding Lebanese affairs. As a means to better exert its influence over Lebanon’s situation, Syria was keen, whenever it was asked about any Lebanese crisis, to insist that a solution was dependent on the consensus of the Lebanese people. Undoubtedly, its words were meaningless — to say the least — in light of the control that Syria had over various Lebanese political parties during its heyday. In reality, Syria made those parties accept prearranged agreements while pretending that the way out of Lebanon’s crises depended on the consensus of the Lebanese.
This catchphrase gradually gained ground in the political and diplomatic arenas. The international community adopted this expression later on, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the disagreement among the Lebanese was the outcome of foreign influence rather than domestic considerations.
Syria made good use of the “consensus” pretext. For instance, they once stated that the withdrawal of its forces to the Bekaa Valley region according to the Taif agreement required the consensus of the Lebanese people. However, the majority of Lebanese political parties during this era were subject to Syrian influence and were unable to move forward with the withdrawal proposal. Syria’s allies in Lebanon clearly expressed their rejection of the proposal on several occasions.
Now it is Russia who is borrowing the phrase to stress that a Syrian consensus is necessary. Russia is well aware that the Syrian opposition is unable to reach a consensus for many political reasons. However, the pertinent question is how an agreement between the regime and the opposition is viable in light of the full-scale onslaught on Syrian rebels. Hence, Russia’s unyielding stance on the Syrian crisis is a pointless venture. Instead, Russia is playing for time while it waits for suitable conditions for a settlement or a solution.