Finally, the world has come to realize that without establishing a central authority governing all of Syria, the complete annihilation of the so-called Islamic State (IS), Jabhat Al-Nusra and Ahrar Al-Sham etc. will not be possible.
This means either supporting Bashar Al-Assad regain control of the territories lost to the terrorist organizations (comprising almost two-third of Syria) or backing the anti-Assad forces to reach Damascus and rule the state.
The last option could be a comprehensive shared Syrian regime sans Assad. British Prime Minister David Cameron’s latest remarks support this idea. Addressing the British House of Commons he said, “A comprehensive Syrian government” is a must to defeat the IS. It’s very rare for a western leader to link the war on the IS with building a central authority in Syria. Such a statement means that time has come for Assad to step down hinting that cooperation with Iran in this regard is possible. This solution reminds us of the June 2012 communiqué of the first Geneva conference, which called for the formation of a Syrian transitional government shared between the regime minus Assad and the opposition groups. Of course, as expected Assad rejected the proposal and so did the majority of opposition forces. Subsequently, Tehran refused to accept the communiqué as a basis to attend the Geneva-II conference.
Despite the passage of two years, we believe this international initiative remains relevant today as well. This proposition can be implemented and help achieve the minimum level of expectations of different stakeholders, particularly at a time when the IS has emerged as an international threat.
We should not underestimate the power of the IS especially after its success in removing the rotten apple, Nuri Al-Maliki, from his post as the prime minister of Iraq. Apparently, the IS could also become the major reason behind getting rid of stubborn Assad. Eventually, the international demand of having a strong central government to eliminate IS will be achieved. This flexible approach stems from the new assessment that admits the possibility of failing to defeat the IS through the alliance, which rejects sending troops to the battlefield.
The war, in such a context, will fail to get rid of the largest terrorist grouping in modern history. Air jets and Tomahawk missiles will only help get rid of a few thousand fighters, while many other thousands will go underground. On the other hand, heavy bombardment will lead armed extremists to split into smaller groups across Syria and hide among the rest of the population. In such a situation, targeting these people will become very difficult and will pose threats of an attrition war that will continue for years and spread to many areas all over the world.
More than one source confirm that most parties believe that the problem and solution is in Damascus stressing the importance of a strong central agreement that takes on the mission of fighting these terrorist groups. It’s impossible to build a strong central authority without toppling the Assad regime. Removal of Assad should top the priority list. However, this idea will not work without satisfying his only allies: Iran and Russia.
Most probably, the two allies are afraid that the increasing western support to the opposition has made Assad an easy target. Therefore, the best choice for Iran and Russia is to take part in the establishment of a comprehensive Syrian regime, instead of losing the Syrian game entirely. The West’s offer to cooperate with Tehran may not last long. The western governments have already started arming the opposition, supporting them with information, and training thousands of recruits, and handing them the responsibility of the areas from which the IS has been pushed back.