For the first time, British Prime Minister David Cameron clearly said that he would be in favor of a safe exit for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if it stops the bloodshed and facilitates the transfer of power in Syria. Al-Assad’s fate is rapidly falling out of his own hands as the noose tightens around him and his choices narrow — he can either die in his palace or flee abroad.
Al-Assad’s urgency to respond to David Cameron was obvious. Cameron’s statement worried the Syrian President and also raised a lot of wider speculation that a conspiracy is being plotted behind closed doors to resolve the Syrian crisis through a political decision granting al-Assad exile abroad without trial, or at least this is what we can gather from the term “safe exit”. Cameron traveled between the region’s capitals at a time when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was also present in the Middle East. Lavrov had met for the first time Riad Hijab, a leading Syrian opposition figure who lives in exile in the Jordanian capital. Hijab previously served as prime minister in al-Assad’s government but defected only a few weeks after his appointment.
There is no doubt that al-Assad knows that the Russians are talking behind his back about a solution, which includes him leaving the government, after failing to strike a reconciliation deal between the al-Assad regime and the opposition. One source confirmed that the Russians are talking about the details of al-Assad’s departure, be it a smooth exit or a forced exile, but the Russian proposal is still not practical in many respects in terms how to administer the country after the exit of the Damascus butcher.
I believe that al-Assad has heard something of this whispering and knows that Cameron did not make his statement randomly; especially since he pointed out that the Syrian President cannot remain unaccountable for his crimes. This suggests that provisions for a trial have been included in the discussions over al-Assad’s departure.
The Russians also propose creating small states in western Syria and the Israelis support this. Interestingly, after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Israeli President Shimon Peres said that he is against any foreign intervention in Syria. Here we can decipher that Peres means he is against the proposed Western intervention, and that he would prefer an “Arab” solution, as proposed by the Arab League, which calls for Arab forces to intervene in Syria.
Of course, Peres knows that Arab troops would be too weak and would cause the conflict to expand rather than overthrow the al-Assad regime. Such intervention would lead to an inter-Arab war, with the region drawn into more battles to distract it from the Palestinian cause for another twenty years.
International foreign intervention, especially under the UN flag, would be able to resolve the great battle quickly by removing al-Assad and ensuring the legitimacy of an alternative Syrian regime. In the absence of such legitimacy, there would be problems such as the continued presence of al-Assad militias as well as extremist elements such as al-Qaeda, which, although they are fighting against the regime’s forces, remain a target for international pursuit, as is happening in Libya today.
We are now in a new phase of the conflict, nearing al-Assad’s exit, but the accompanying dangers will not be easy to deal with. If al-Assad leaves without trial this is a problem for everyone, and if Syria is divided into smaller states this is totally unacceptable.