MESOP TODAY’S OPINION : The Syrian Cause No Longer Belongs to Syrians / YEKITI PARTY

Abdulbaki Al-Youssef – Political Committee KURDISH YEKITIT PARTY – 23 Jan 2015 – The Syrian revolution is about to enter its fifth year. And yet, despite the loss of many lives and the havoc in Syria, Bashar al-Assad’ regime is still standing and there are no solutions in sight.Had Assad heeded the demands of the protesters at the outset of the Syrian uprising, he could have avoided the current catastrophe in Syria. However, the very act of initiating democratic and socio-economic reforms would have threatened the existence of his regime. Therefore, Assad opted to respond to the protests with force, and his regime started to accuse Israel, the United States, and their allies in the region of conspiring against Syria.

As for the Syrian opposition, it has fallen under the control of Islamist groups, most prominently the Muslim Brotherhood, and regime defectors who embrace a blend of Baathism and Arab nationalism. The opposition, represented by the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the National Coordination Committee (NCC), fails to reflect the interests of the Syrian people. And, As a result of this disarray, the oppositionists have been unable to agree on a roadmap for Syria’s future.

There are a number of reasons why radical Islamist groups are on the rise in Syria. For one, the Islamic movement took control of the SNC and, later, the NCC. Also, the financial support of certain Arab countries and Turkey, instead of Western support, has contributed to the Islamists’ upswing.

But the rise of these groups plays into the regime’s strategy and interests. The Syrian cause no longer belongs to the Syrians. Neither the Assad regime nor the opposition are capable of working together to find a solution to the crisis; they are only parties to it. Instead, regional and international powers are using Syria as their battleground, with Russia and Iran supporting Assad and the United States, Europe, and the Arab Gulf states supporting the opposition. Washington’s support for the opposition has been limited. It wants to ensure the opposition’s continuity, but not necessarily its success, at least until the region settles down and there is a viable solution to be implemented.

Following the declaration of the so-called “Islamic State,” the international spotlight has turned to violent extremism in Syria and Iraq. Moreover, the recent terrorist attacks in France against Charlie Hebdo and a kosher store have further induced the international community to counter Islamic terrorist groups operating in the Middle East. While this brutal violence should be condemned and uprooted, focusing exclusively on these groups fails to recognize a fundamental truth: these groups and the regime in Damascus are intertwined. From the outset of the conflict in Syria, the Assad regime has tried to portray itself as a partner in the global fight against terrorism. The regime’s delegation to the Geneva II conference attempted to underscore this point, albeit unsuccessfully. The regime has benefited from the rising tide of extremism not only within its own borders, but internationally too, because it shifts attention away from its own crimes. The Syrian crisis will continue to spiral out of control if the international community does not act promptly. The opposition’s aspiration to establish democracy in post-Assad Syria is nothing more than a farce. Indeed, once Assad falls, there may be an election with ballot boxes and lines of people waiting to cast their votes. But how can there be true democracy in a country that has never had a democratic culture or guaranteed minority rights, and where a sectarian civil war is entering its fifth year? Since the centralized government model of the last 70 years has failed, it is up to the international community to step in and impose a new, federal political order in Syria.

Abdulbaki Al-Youssef is a member of the political committee of the Yekiti Kurdish Party in Syria.