Judy Asks: Is There a Political Solution for Syria?
Koert Debeuf – There is no political solution for Syria because Russia and Iran don’t want one. Their strategies are very different from the West’s. Iran clearly wants to create a sphere of influence from Tehran via Baghdad and Damascus to Beirut. In Syria, a mainly Sunni Muslim country, any political solution will lead to the end of the power structure of President Bashar al-Assad and thus the end of the influence of predominantly Shia Iran.
Russia is trying to drag Turkey into the conflict. Russia is supporting the Syrian Kurds, who are on their way to gaining territory all along the Syrian-Turkish border, a redline for Turkey. Russia has entered Turkey’s airspace to trigger a reaction, just like it did in Georgia in 2008. Putin knows that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a liability for the EU and NATO. If Erdoğan reacts, will NATO join him? Probably not. Just as Russia’s March 2014 annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region divided Europe, so Turkey will divide and weaken NATO.(…)
By Marc Pierini – The complexity of the war in Syria lies fundamentally in the unwillingness of the ruling family—the Assad-Makhlouf clan—to consider any kind of power-sharing arrangement, be it political or economic. Pluralism and democracy are not in their genes, they believe only in ruling by the sword.
On top of this Syrian specificity is the Russian intervention of September 2015. Meant first to rescue the crumbling army of an allied Arab regime, Moscow’s action was also designed to establish a lasting Russian stronghold in the Middle East and to notify Washington that U.S. dominance in world affairs was over. The Russian intervention had significant side effects as well: it froze Turkey’s policy on Syria and sent a signal to Tehran that the Iranians were not alone in controlling the Syrian civil war. (…)
Gianni Riotta – Russian President Vladimir Putin’s raids in Syria were aimed at consolidating the regime in Damascus and asserting the Kremlin’s status while America was caucusing for its next presidential candidates. Russia now has two solid bases in the Mediterranean and can swagger around. Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad bet on blood, Game of Thrones–style, and after more than 250,000 dead and half the country displaced, he is cashing in on his rewards.
The so-called peace negotiations that ran aground on February 3 only confirm how hapless the UN is (verbose and pompous, you may argue, but hapless nevertheless).(…)
Shimon Stein – Of course a political solution can be found to the Syrian crisis. But for that to happen, as in many other crises in the region and beyond, the circumstances that will help launch a political process have to ripen. In this respect, Syria is still far away from the point at which all the parties involved locally, regionally, and globally are willing to strike a compromise, which means giving up their ultimate objectives to pave the way for a credible political process. (…)
Stephen Szabo – This is hardly a clean or ideal solution, but the West learned in Kosovo that at some point, military action and partition are preferable to continued regional destabilization.
The United States and its allies must take immediate action to create safe havens and provide security and economic assistance to those living in the Kurdish and other areas still free from the Syrian and Russian militaries.(…) [Read the full opinions]
Principled Position vs. Political Reality
Şaban Kardaş – For Turkey, the decisive question is whether the military conditions behind a negotiation framework can sustain a political process. While the concept behind the current process, crystallized in the Vienna Declaration and UNSC Resolution 2254, was based on a particular balance of power on the ground, Russian and Iranian intervention is altering it. If the diplomatic process is to have a chance, from the Turkish point of view, it has to proceed with the original understanding, and a new round of Geneva talks need to be geared toward a transition process envisaged in Geneva-I. This insistence on a political transition has burdened Turkey’s policy.
Although it is criticized for such principled inflexibility, Turkey sees a sustainable political deal to which all major actors on the ground can subscribe as essential so they can then channel their energies to fighting ISIS. In line with the Vienna meeting conclusions, the Syrian opposition gathered in Riyadh in early December 2015 to discuss terms for their participation into upcoming planned political negotiations.
As the final declaration underscored, opposition groups will not accept an imposed solution if it lacks a realistic transition framework. Still, the main parameters according to which the opposition will negotiate with the regime continue to be the decisive factor as the opposition weighs whether or not to participate in the Geneva talks. For its part, despite the many shortcomings of the various diplomatic initiatives, Turkey has done everything to convince the Syrian opposition to take part in the political process. This was the case in Geneva II (2014) and Geneva III (2015), and Turkey still insists that the opposition should come to the table. Nonetheless, if the Geneva-I framework is not accepted as the baseline, Turkey fears that future negotiations will not bear fruit.(…) [Full analysis.]
Reaction or Over-Reaction?
by Ilter Turan – It is not unusual for governments or public opinion to get upset with statements from academics. In the middle of a security campaign against a terrorist organization, patience and understanding may be even more difficult to maintain than at other times. But the president’s reaction, soon emulated by the government as a whole, was both unusually strong and problematic.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan considered the statement an act of treason and encouraged university administrations and the Council on Higher Education to deal with its authors. He also asked that public prosecutors take note that the signatories had extended support to terrorists. Not surprisingly, the government’s stance soon generated further reaction. More than 1,000 academics added their signatures to original the statement as an act of sympathy. Another group of academics, while not expressing an opinion on the contents of the initial statement, drew attention to the fact that expression of ideas was a democratic right and the rights of the signatories should be respected. Soon, members of foreign academic communities and international professional associations began to issue statements, asking the government to respect the liberties of the signatories, some making additional references to academic freedoms and a peaceful resolution of Turkey’s Kurdish problem (…) Full analysis.
Divisions within Turkey’s Opposition Extend Erdoğan’s Rule
Aykan Erdemir – Intra-party democracy, however, does not guarantee results. On the contrary, cut-throat primaries and turf battles at party congresses have forced CHP candidates to cater predominantly to the party’s more ideological, compromise-averse base. This ends up hurting the party’s election prospects, since the CHP’s registered members – those allowed to vote in primaries – tend to lean left of the party’s 12 million voters, and certainly of Turkey’s 55 million voters nationwide. Party candidates therefore tend toward firebrand rhetoric and populist posturing, diminishing their appeal to a Turkish public that is predominantly conservative and right-wing. One glimmer of hope from the January congress was the election of Selin Sayek Böke, a dynamic economics professor and rising star, to the Party Council’s top spot and her appointment as spokesperson after just 16 months in politics. Her pragmatic ideas for reviving Turkey’s flagging economic growth have reached a wider audience beyond the CHP’s traditional base. Time will tell, however, whether her soft-spoken, no-nonsense style will be audible to voters against the din of her party’s more strident voices. (…) [Full analysis.]
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