The Turkish Foreign Minister [Ahmet Davutoglu] claims it is possible that Farouk al-Shara could replace Bashar al-Assad at the head of a transitional government that would lead to the end of the conflict in Syria, which has been ongoing for over 18 months. Davutoglu explained that al-Shara “is a man of reason and conscience and he has not taken part in the massacres in Syria”, adding that the Syrian opposition is “inclined to accept” him. Is this possible?
Of course, the fact that this statement was issued by someone of the stature of the Turkish Foreign Minister means it cannot be ignored, however it is strange that this proposal [for al-Assad to relinquish power to a deputy] has been put forward time and again, in different ways, since the Arabs first mobilized towards the Syrian crisis. Every time al-Assad has flatly rejected it, instead resorting to superficial measures such as appointing a specialized minister for dialogue with the opposition. So why are we returning to this proposal once again now, this time from the Turkish Foreign Minister?
It is clear that officials in our region do not care much for public opinion, given the magnitude of silence regarding what is happening in our region. Therefore, logic dictates that the idea of al-Shara heading the transitional phase in Syria is being re-launched at this time in the hope that it will now be supported by the Russians and the Iranians, based on the premise that the Syrian crisis can be stopped by al-Assad stepping down rather than the entire regime collapsing. In this respect, Arab officials have already intimated that Russian officials have told them: Why was it acceptable for Mubarak to step down and for the regime to stay in place in Egypt, whilst the whole regime must go in Syria, not just al-Assad?
Thus it seems that this proposal is being re-launched to reassure the Russians and the Iranians that their influence in Syria will not vanish in an instant [after al-Assad steps down], and that by accepting al-Shara they will be accepting the least damaging outcome. But the issue is not that simple of course, especially as the Syrian opposition today does not distinguish between individual members of the al-Assad regime. We now see accusations being directed even against al-Assad’s advisors, against the backdrop of the case of former Lebanese minister Michel Samaha. Furthermore, the Syrian opposition’s genuine gains on the ground could be compromised through offering concessions to one of the al-Assad regime’s pillars, Farouk al-Shara. Here I must draw attention to a striking piece of news, namely the meeting that was held in Amman between the Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and the dissident former Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab. During the meeting, the two discussed “the latest developments in the Syrian arena” according to the official Jordanian news agency, which means that the Syrian opposition has other options capable of taking over the post-Assad phase!
Therefore it is not easy to imagine a solution along the lines of the late Omar Suleiman’s proposal on behalf of Mubarak in Egypt, because the situation on the ground in Syria is completely different. If there is indeed an acceptable proposal for a transitional government then we are yet to find it, and it is yet to garner public support, for al-Assad is not a rational man and we do not see any serious indications from Russia and Iran. Here an important question remains: Are the Turks just trying to say we did everything in our power, but al-Assad, Iran and Russia did not listen to us? Maybe.