It is easier to negotiate with one Assad than with ten

By Vestnik Kavkaza
It is easier to negotiate with one Assad than with ten

Five months of shelling the terrorists in Syria have produced a significant effect, the operation was successful, the majority of Russians polled by VTsIOM say. According to 48% of the respondents, the military conflict in the region is calming down, and the situation is normalising. The opposite view is held by only 11%. One in four (27%) does not note significant changes. Last autumn, as well as now, six months after sending the Russian Air Force to Syria to fight terrorists, sociologists have established support for this decision by the majority of the population: in October 2015 it was 66%, in March 2016 it is 70%. First of all, men agree with this (80%) and respondents with high incomes (77%). 40% characterize the effects of the Russian aviation activities in Syria as positive, and 21% of Russians recognized them as quite bad. 23% believe that they did not influence the situation in Russia. Meanwhile, the stumbling block in the process of the settlement of the conflict in Syria is the fate of the current president, Bashar al-Assad.

"When I listen to the Western analysts, or read the Western media, I have the impression that they are concerned about the fate of Bashar al-Assad more than his own bodyguards are,’’ the deputy director of the Institute of Forecasting and Resolution of Political Conflicts Alexander Kuznetsov said.

According to him, Assad should remain the president of Syria for a transitional period of one and a half or two years: ‘’If we now remove Assad we will destroy the entire structure of power in Syria. And we will have to agree not with a unified Syrian government, but with the generals of the Syrian army, who will suddenly become warlords. Generally speaking, not with one Assad, but with ten Assads. And it's almost impossible."

Regarding future ways of settling the Syrian conflict, in Kuznetsov's opinion it is necessary to create a political system in Syria that would contribute to stability in the country and would satisfy the interests of all groups of Syrians, "Syria is very diverse, multi-vectoral, multi-religious, there are several religious communities: Sunnis, Alawites, Druze, Shiites, Syrian Christians. There are very different regions. Let's assume that the way of life, the economic structure of the inhabitants of Damascus is not the same as that of the Bedouins of north-western Syria, in the same provinces of Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor. The aim is to create a political system that is acceptable to everyone. This system must have democratic elements. Before the crisis in Syria there was an over-centralization, there was an arbitrariness of the Syrian intelligence services, suppression of the opposition. Even the Ba'ath Party, which when Hafez al-Assad was in power had a very strong position, during President Bashar Assad was neglected openly, so it could not act, unfortunately, as a stabilizing element, and the Syrian crisis began. Any first elections in Syria must begin no earlier than in a year or two, when the political forces in Syria will be finally crystallized, there will be new political parties and movements."

Speaking about the renewal of the political elite in Syria, the expert urged not to feel illusions in relation to the migrant Syrian opposition: "Many of these people have not been living in Syria for 15-20 years, they have lost many of the field positions, and, most importantly, they do not control the armed groups in Syria in the field. That is, a new political elite in Syria must emerge from both the healthy elements that support Assad’s government, and, perhaps, the commanders of the armed opposition. Most of the Syrian expatriates cannot help with this, in my opinion, simply due to objective factors.’’

With regard to the federal system in Syria, this proposal raises serious questions for Kuznetsov. ‘’Both Assad’s  government, and many people in opposition who are powerful Arab nationalists do not want the appearance of a Kurdish autonomy in the north-west of Syria, considering that it could be a factor of Syrian division in the future. But we cannot remove the Kurdish factor, the Kurds are the real political power in the north of Syria, they have quite effectively confronted the terrorist group Islamic State. So, naturally, some elements of federalization should be included in the new image of Syria,’’  the expert believes.