Pundit-sphere slowly starts to move towards discussion of a negotiation track on Syria
Julien Barnes-Dacey has a good piece in Financial Times here… expect to see more of these pieces in the coming weeks and months.
My piece along these lines from last month, but with more on the specific mechanics of how this could work, is here. Julien leaves out a few critical arguments that bolster his essential argument – one main one is that EVEN IF THE REGIME rejects a reasonable deal, this rejection would be a powerful wedge for splitting the regime. This dynamic has been little explored as yet in the dominant discourse on the subject, unfortunately.
“No one wants to deal with dictators. But one year after the Syrian uprising began, the harsh truth is that Bashar al-Assad maintains the upper hand and the opposition – with its international backers – may have little choice but to cut a deal with him if they want to ease the Syrian people’s suffering.
“…Despite Moscow’s obstructionist position to date, the only way to make progress on a political track will be to play by its rules. Russia has been the main impediment to united international action and it is clear that, so long as the regime has this international cover, it will not relent in its use of violence nor enter any political process.
For Russia – as well as China and even Iran – to change tack and to press Mr Assad to implement a ceasefire, the opposition will have to consent to direct talks with the regime, not preconditioned on Mr Assad’s immediate departure or on that of regime forces from urban centres. In effect, the initial price will be an outcome that favours the regime’s position on the ground. Distasteful as this will be, there is no other way to end the bloodshed. However, if Mr Assad was to agree a ceasefire, even if he remains in power, he will be far more marginalised internationally and under severe pressure to comply. Such an outcome could ease the entry of humanitarian aid and of a new, enhanced team of monitors.
More positively, such a deal could prepare the ground for a political process, however difficult, that could swing the balance in the opposition’s favour. After four decades of repression, a vibrant, politically mobilised population is now intent on seizing its own future. The state of fear has been broken. This is a force Mr Assad is unable to resist except by violence. A political track may therefore be a surer way of ultimately ending the regime…”