East and West Deadlock in Syria

16 January 2013 | 13:34 Code : 1911617 Interview General category
Excerpts of an interview with Mohammad Shariati Dehaghan, a Middle East affairs analyst
East and West Deadlock in Syria


What took place in Geneva? Has there been any special development in the US and Russia's positions with regard to Syria? What are the components of differences in the views of Moscow and Washington regarding the transitional government in Syria? 

Contradicting reports have been published about the Geneva Conference. Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN special envoy to Syria, stated that no agreement was made between Moscow and Washington about Syria. This is while the spokesperson of the US State Department and also some western sources talk about progress in the Geneva talks.

To clarify this point, it must be added that Lakhdar Brahimi, in the first stage, stated that no agreement was made, but at the same time he added that other countries, especially the US and Russia, reiterated the need for a political solution in Syria. Considering Brahimi's interpretation of the Geneva agreement, it can be comprehended that this position is more inclined towards the interpretation of the western countries and not Moscow's. It means that a government must come to power in Syria that should have complete authority and under such circumstances Bashar Assad might symbolically remain in power or resign.  No word has been said in this regard. If Moscow has agreed with a transitional government with complete authority, then it has, in fact, separated its position from the government of Syria.

In the statement issued by Russia following this conference, contradicting issues were proposed; first that the people of Syria should decide on Bashar Assad remaining or resigning from power which means no change has been made in their position. Secondly, the diplomatic efforts made by Lakhdar Brahimi were defended and supported. Under such circumstances, an analyst might speculate that explicit agreements have been made between Moscow and Washington, but they have agreed not to discuss them or reflect upon them. 

What was on the agenda of yesterday's Arab League meeting? 

Yesterday, the ministers of the Arab League, upon the invitation of Lebanon due to the pouring of Syrian refugees into this country which has created financial, political, and social problems there, met in Cairo to decide about methods for Arab governments to give aid in this regard. Under these conditions, the issue of Syria would certainly be discussed. But it does not seem that this meeting would make any special decision until a major solution is achieved.

Qatar has talked about the necessity of dispatching Arab peace-keeping forces to Syria. Is there a possibility of such a measure being taken considering the fact that Bashar Assad is still in power? What are the differences between these Arab forces, which Doha has proposed, and the UN peace-keeping forces?

It seems that considering the problems in Syria, no decision has yet been made in this regard. But most of the analysts state that the flood of Syrian refugees has exerted pressure on many countries like Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and to some extent Iraq. In line with Qatar, Jordan has also made a new statement which is significant. Although the King of Jordan has attempted to remain neutral with regard to Syrian issues, he has recently stated that all possibilities, including the overthrow of the government and the issue of the fate of chemical weapons, are on the table. 

Based on the latest reports, the number of Syrian refugees has reached 600,000. Could you explain the political and financial damages caused by this incident for neighboring countries like Turkey and Lebanon?

The issue of the refugees contains many humanitarian dimensions. These refugees are present both inside and outside of Syria. Based on statistics, the number of refugees outside of Syria is between 600,000 and 800,000. This number only includes those who have been registered and many of the refugees are not registered for they are financially well-off and can afford to stay in hotels. The number of refugees inside Syria is one million to 1.5 million who have migrated from one region to another. From a human rights perspective, this issue has created many problems, so much so that even Switzerland intends to present a proposal to the UN asking this organization to deliver the matter to the war crimes tribunal. But considering Russia's right of veto, it seems impossible that this issue will seriously be considered until an agreement is made. 

Have the efforts made by the Arabs led to negative results and the unaffiliated militias coming to power? What is your prediction of the status of the Alawis in Syria after Bashar Assad?

Many issues in Syria, like the protests and the terrorist acts, have been mixed together. One of the problems that the world is faced with is that it doesn’t know who will replace Assad and in the hands of which opposition faction the political and military power will be. These vague issues have caused this trend to continue as it has. 

The Alawis have different positions. Many of them support the government and some move alongside the opposition. The West stresses the rights of minorities. The Christians, the Alawis, and the Druzes generally support the government (of course, Walid Jumblatt, who is a Lebanese Druze, always sends messages to the Syrian Druzes advising them to stand with the revolution and the people against the government).

tags: refugees syria arab moscow assad

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