Could there be a Political Solution to the Civil War in Syria?

April 9, 2018


The Syrian Arab Republic is in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon, the Mediterranean Sea, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Israel. It is home to a diverse mix of ethnic groups of Syrians, Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Caucasians, Mandeans, and Turks. Religions practiced include Sunnis Islam, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Ismailis, Shiites, Salafis, Yazidis, and Jews. 
 
What is current day Syria has been under the control of Babylonians, Cyrus the Great, Persians, Greeks, Alexander the Great, Armenians, Romans, and
 Byzantines. The Apostle Paul was converted on the Road to Damascus.  Muhammad’s followers invaded in 626. French, English, Italian, and German overlords ruled until the Crusades; followed by the Ottoman Empire. After WWI Syria became a French Mandate, and it gained independent statehood after WWII. In the mid-1950’s Syria signed a pact with the Soviet Union. Various wars with Israel which had begun in the 1940s continued. In the 1967 War, Syria lost 2/3rds of the Golan Heights to Israel. Syria backed Yasser Arafat and the terrorist organization, the PLO, and continues to back terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah. Hafez al-Assad was a strongman president of Syria. His eye doctor son, Basher al-Assad became president in 2000. 
 
Inspired by the Arab Spring Revolutions, the Syrian Civil War began in 2011. Peaceful protests were smacked down by the Syrian Army.  By 2013, more than 100,000 civilians, including children, had been killed. Syrian refugees fled to Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Turkey. By 2017, more than 400,000 civilians had been killed. 
 

The United States was indecisive in the early stages. In 2013, it became apparent that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad was deploying chemical weapons against Syria’s civilian population. President Barak Obama’s ‘red line’ was crossed. He did nothing as fighters were killed and hundreds of thousands of innocent victims underwent horrific violence and death. The terrorist group ISIS, which former President Obama dubbed 'junior varsity,' prospered and grew. Soon proxy wars against that caliphate included troops from Iran, Russia, Turkey, the U.S., and more. 
 
ISIS fighters in 2018 are fleeing Syria and Iraq. “Jihadists are going underground, dispersing to other safe havens, and returning to their home countries,” advised Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen. Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of Islamic State fighters, fell since President Trump took office. General Paul Selva,
Vice-chair Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced: “The remaining Islamic State leadership and its shadowy network of fighters is now on the lam.” President Trump highlighted that almost all of the Islamic State’s territory in Iraq and in Syria has been liberated in his State of the Union Address. After ISIS is decimated, what is the military American interest in Syria? 
 
Foreign ministers of the U.S., Britain, France, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia recently met in Paris and drew up an unofficial document of principles (Paris Paper) regarding a political solution to the Syrian crisis. It included limiting the powers of the Syrian President, expansion of the Prime Minister's role, setting principles for serious change in the regime, credible elections in which everyone can vote, a new constitution, and other important changes. It calls for the withdrawal of foreign militaries. With this framework, the United Nations is assembling a conference for a political solution to the Syrian crisis.
 
Russia, Turkey, 
and Iran support President Assad. Russia advanced a political solution for the Syrian crisis by holding a conference in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi. The January 2018 Conference of National Dialogue did not go smoothly. It is reported that the Syrian regime was disrespectful, and the Supreme Negotiating Authority representing the Syrian Opposition boycotted the conference. Kurdish groups stayed away. The Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations stressed, “The conference participants gave no mandate, authorizations, or authority in the matter of establishment of the committee for discussion of the constitution. We disregard the results and anything else connected to it.” Sochi’s results teetered on disaster.
 
President Assad’s regime is accused of arresting human rights activists, censoring websites, detaining bloggers, arbitrary detentions, torture, killings, and disappearances. Diplomatic relations have been severed by the USA, Britain, Belgium, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Libya, Spain, Tunisia, and Arab states in the Persian Gulf. 
 
The Syrian crisis has been treated like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by the United States, the United Nations, and other western nations since 2011. A political solution, such as presented in the Paris Paper, seems an outcome everyone could applaud - a solution that would end the civil war, the suffering of innocent civilians, and enable the country to rebuild so that refugees could return to their homeland. All five nations of the Paris conference expressed willingness to help in the rebuilding of Syria after there is a transfer of power in accordance with the UN Resolution 2254. 
 
Perhaps detractors of the proposition that the United States military leave Syria should look closer at the greatest interests of the United States, the Paris Paper’s principles, and what the United Nations would propose in the coming Syria conference. One of the conditions of the Paris Paper is that foreign military withdraw. A political solution is the vintage
action under which the United Nations organized at its inception.  
 
Holding cards close to his vest, it seems that President Trump is giving voice to what is in American interests and perhaps the first step towards the principles of the Paris Paper, a political solution to the Syrian crisis. 

Copyright ©2018



Darlene Casella was before retirement an English teacher, a stockbroker, and president/owner of a small corporation.  She lives in La Quinta, California and can be reached at darlenecasella@msn.com