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Opinion: Assad Has Four Years Left - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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As part of negotiations to find a political solution to end the war in Syria, the Russians and Iranians are insisting that Bashar Al-Assad remains as president. They vow that this would only be for the remainder of his current rule “out of respect for the constitution”, and a government in which opposition forces are represented would be formed. In addition to this, they vowed that regions and territories would have independent powers.

Anyone who hears this tempting offer would say that if this is the condition for peace, then they welcome it. Assad staying as president would not pose a problem if there were guarantees that the promises would be kept.

However, there are two flaws to this. The first is that the president won the elections and no one knows how, especially as it was held amidst a terrible war in mid-2014. How will he then be removed when his rule is fully established and the opposition’s weapons are taken away?

The second flaw is that the date for the end of Assad’s presidency is far off- 2021. Four long years is more than enough time for him to eradicate all opposition forces.

Russia’s proposal for Assad’s temporary stay is actually a life sentence. The opposition must realise that if it accepts this proposal, it must give everything up and accept that conditions will return to how they were before the uprising in 2011. It must also accept that it cannot even dream of any of the demands that it made and that all promises of a mixed government, constitutional guarantees and independent laws for provinces will be worthless later.

Although it is impossible to believe international guarantees, if the promises that the coming years will be a phase of reconciliation, rectification and a transfer of power are genuine, I expect that moderate opposition forces will accept them because their aim was not to destroy the country and the state, but rather to bring about peaceful change. The uprising was peaceful at the beginning, and for a number of months only consisted of demonstrations, raising banners and singing songs. The opposition’s calls for a peaceful transition were different to the uprisings in Tunisia, Libya and even Egypt.

Talk of respecting the constitution which is not even respected by those who drafted it, and the call for Assad to complete his presidential term are just ploys to negotiate with and that aim to make it easier for the opposition to retreat, save face and claim in the future that they got major concessions. The Syrians know very well that accepting the presence of the regime for another four years means that the opposition has betrayed them and abandoned all promises that it made to the Syrians. More than half a million Syrians have lost their lives and millions have been displaced, never to return to their homes.

This would mean that the moderate opposition would cease to exist and that the extreme opposition, which refuses to negotiate and is just as bad as the regime, would be strengthened. The opposition has a large responsibility to bear the results of what it negotiates today and what it will agree on later. No one will believe that they were deceived because the results of the elections that took place amidst the destruction and in which the president gained 89% of the vote were announced. Especially as most of the killing and destruction took place after these elections in which it was claimed that more than 10 million citizens voted. We know that it was impossible for even two million people to have voted at the time. The deception will happen again.

In the face of the condition that Assad remains president, it will be easier for the Syrians to accept a division of the country and give the president a state in which he can guarantee that most of the votes are from his sect without the need to falsify the results. Every group will live in their state happily without war and a regime controlling it. This terrible project to divide Syria is even rejected by Turkey, Iran and Iraq because they fear the consequences. Today, they are holding negotiations on Syria which is like a broken jar, and want to restore it to what it was in the past, after all this terrible murder and destruction.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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