Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Competition heading towards Damascus | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The race to inherit power after the fall of the al-Assad regime has accelerated after signs of its fall became clear to everyone, even its allies: The Doha meeting, the statements from Riyadh, the call from Rome, the clashes on the border with Jordan, Turkey’s threat that it would intervene to confront the separatist PKK on its border with Syria, in addition to the political and military revolutionary blocs both inside and outside Syria.

The fall of the Syrian regime in its final days will not be easy, as some had imagined, and the inheritance of power will be even more difficult than the scene we are currently facing. Everyone is possessed by a desire to move Syria onwards to a different future, and bid farewell to four decades of iron-fisted rule, with the exception perhaps of the “Syrian dissidents” who met in Rome [to call for a political solution to the crisis], the affiliates of the regime and some of its symbols that have allied with Tehran and Moscow since last year.

The fear is that this competitive and hasty race towards Damascus may beget more chaos, and open the door wide for forces who want to sabotage Syria. Here I am talking specifically about Iran and its affiliates. The Syrian groups competing are, in the most part, nationalistic, and represent different trends of various internal categories. However, unless they expand their circles of participation, fall under one umbrella, accept pluralism and leave it up to the Syrian citizen to choose between them at a later stage, they will find themselves bottlenecked at the regime’s hour of exit. Even though the past years of Syrian rule did not allow us to identify all forces, this does not mean they were not present. Pluralism within the Syrian social fabric is an old-established fact, whether in terms of ideas, politics or movements.

The Syrian arena is now at the height of its mobility: there is the Syrian National Council, the Free Syrian Army, the Democratic Movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Kurdish National Council, the powerful Arab tribes, the Turkmen movements, the Association of Syrian Ulama, the Coalition of Secular and Democratic Syrians, the historical families such as al-Shishakli and al-Atassi, and of course the coordinators and the various revolutionary forces on the ground.

It is too early, of course, to draw a Syrian political map, but it is not too early for the Syrians to think about gathering together collectively under a new flag. From there they can think about mechanisms of political representation and action, and later the formation of a government. No one wants the al-Assad regime to fall only for its formula to remain in place, i.e. a totalitarian, security-based regime that abused the Syrians ever since it seized power in the Baathist coup of 1963. The only safe choice to avoid the risk of a vacuum in the post-Assad phase is a broad umbrella that accommodates everyone, leaving the majority of the Syrian people with the option to choose later on. It is not a question of settling scores, but it is about a shared future.