With Annan Successor Lined Up, Big Transition Looms in Syria

Article Summary
As Lakhdar Brahimi stood poised to take up the unenviable challenge of restarting a stalled U.N.-Arab League peace plan for Syria, he called for the international community to take a united stance. While that remains unlikely, Rozana Bou Mouncef writes that the Assad regime will fall soon and the UN is eager to participate in any political transition.

There are divergent opinions concerning the importance of appointing the veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi as the UN-Arab League joint special envoy for Syria. Brahimi will replace Kofi Annan, who resigned after holding the international community responsible for failing to reach a consensus on the Syrian crisis.

There is every chance that Brahimi might be appointed as Annan’s successor during the first couple days of this week. In a statement last week, Brahimi urged the international community to adopt a unified stance on the Syrian crisis.

“The U.N Security Council and regional states must join efforts to pave the way for a political transition [in Syria] as soon as possible,” he confirmed.

There have not been yet any radical changes in the stance of the international community toward the Syrian crisis, although Russian officials have been lately keeping a low profile. This ushers in a new phase of challenges previously faced by Annan, noting that neither Annan (as a person) nor his six-point plan have been obstacles to the international community’s efforts to find a solution to the Syrian crisis.

Even if Brahimi, who is known for his endless patience in dealing with the Lebanese, Afghan and Iraqi crises, is appointed, there is little hope that there will be major changes in the international community’s stance, which is needed to stop the violence in Syria and bring the Syrian regime and opposition together to draw up a plan for a power transition. Actually, no major changes will be witnessed without any new developments on the ground paving the way for an appropriate exit from such a crisis.

According to diplomatic sources, it is still unclear whether such developments on the ground will occur. However, it is likely that there will be be some short time alterations, mainly after Annan’s withdrawal and the emergence of new diplomatic figures concerned with the Syrian affair. However, Western countries are today careful about getting involved in the “Syrian regime’s death throes” equation, as it means that while the Syrian regime has literally very few days left but, practically speaking, there might be months or weeks to go before the regime falls.

Rumors about such an equation might raise doubts about the authenticity of the intelligence that Western countries have on the Syrian regime’s downfall. The UN wants, however, to participate in the Syrian dossier and contribute to any political transition, which has recently become more likely than ever. This is especially true given that the members of the Security Council—including China and Russia—have agreed upon the appointment of a UN-Arab League joint special envoy. This consensus might be the unique international consensus on the Syrian crisis. Moreover, stakeholders believe the appointment of a new international delegation might leave the door open for further negotiations with Assad that could result in a peaceful political transition. It also has the potential to disregard the calls for Syria’s president to stand trial before the International Criminal Court, despite Western diplomats’ insinuations to the contrary in this regard.

According to the same sources, the defection of Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab and several high-level officers has provided reliable and important information and data concerning the remaining warfare capabilities and power of the Syrian regime and army. Although those defectors are not part of the very limited decision-making circle surrounding Assad, the information gathered on the Syrian regime is quite accurate and valuable.

In fact, such information could presage several variables in the short term and help stakeholders be better prepared whenever such variables occur. The information might also enhance the performance of the Free Syrian Army and rebels and help them better target regime forces and strongholds, expediting the regime’s fall.

Consequently, several prominent Western political figures claimed that the Syrian regime was in its death throes. “It is about time to plan for Syria’s political transition,” US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said during her visit to Turkey last Saturday.  

There are other signs suggesting a downfall is imminent, such as  the arrest [last week] of the Lebanese former minister and MP, Michel Samaha, who had allegedly planed to import or extend the reach of the Syrian regime to Lebanon based on the equation the regime has made common—that its downfall will threaten regional stability.

Importing the Syrian crisis to Lebanon in any form whatsoever is quite expected; however, its implementation is surprising. Sources consider such a step a “desperate attempt” by the Syrian regime to gain time and delay its downfall. This desperation has clearly been noticed as there are have been armed skirmishes between the Syrian army and the Jordanian army on the Syrian-Jordanian border [ever since Samaha’s arrest]. In fact, Jordan has become the first safe haven for high-level regime defectors.

Moreover, the Syrian regime has intentionally brought to light the Kurds’ affair in Turkey and sparked fears among Syrian civilians of Kurds groups establishing an independent region that includes Aleppo. All such signs, including many other assaults and defections in Aleppo and Damascus, indicate that the Syrian regime’s downfall is imminent. 

Found in: un, syria, security council, security, samaha, lebanon, clinton, brahimi, assad, arab league, arab, annan

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