US Pressure on Damascus: Conducive to Peace in Syria?

Regrettably, the West stubbornly maintains a unilateral position on the Syrian conflict. Hence the chances of its resolution become minimal. As the conflict enters its third year, the regime of Bashar al-Assad seems to be enjoying the support of the majority of the Syrian people and is not going to surrender power to the opposition, especially as a significant portion of the latter are branded terrorists and extremists. Nevertheless, the Syrian opposition is bent on a military solution to the conflict by seeking to topple Bashar by the force of arms. Drawing on Western financial and political support the opposition replenishes the ranks of militants with foreign mercenaries. Under these circumstances, the suffering of the Syrian innocent people unfortunately compounds as the casualties count increases by tens of thousands … But who is to blame? Should we place the blame squarely only the regime of Bashar al-Assad condoning the crimes incessantly committed by the foreign mercenaries?

Still, as its reaction to the failure of “Geneva 2” shows, the West fails to grasp the simple truth that Assad is part of the solution, that what is desperately needed, for long time now, is a ceasefire that can only come after a complete halt on the supply of arms to the opposition. Singularly, in one voice, the Western powers, accused Damascus of hampering negotiations. Obviously, the US intends to explore possible ways of increasing pressure on the Assad regime. Nevertheless, Barack Obama elusively rejected the possibility of a direct military intervention, at least in the near future. However, France seems to be ready to independently resume responsibility, in case the UN Security Council approves intervention. «If the situation was appropriately and the UN decided to strike against Syria, France could do it, it has the necessary forces and means» declared Francois Hollande, the French President, during a press conference held at the Elysée Palace in Paris.

According to Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, Moscow is checking on intelligence that some sponsors of the Syrian opposition are beginning to create a new structure. This is done at the expense of those groups which emerged from the National Coalition of Opposition and Revolutionary Forces (NCORF), the delegation of which participated in «Geneva-2». Lack of faith in the negotiation process appears to be the guiding principle of the new structure.

The idea is that the fledgling new organization replaces NCORF as the opposition’s umbrella organization. «In other words, [the Opposition’s] course of action is to get away from the negotiation track and head again for a military scenario», Sergei Lavrov warned. Lavrov added that Moscow maintains an almost daily contact with the Syrian authorities, and pointed out that, according to statistics, the greatest number of casualties in Syria are provoked not by the Assad regime, but from terrorist and extremist Sunni Islamist groups.

As a matter of fact, the Syrian government delegation took a more constructive position than the representatives of the opposition at the negotiating table. Syrian officials constantly repeat that Damascus is ready to discuss all the items of the Geneva communiqué, but in order of priority. That is, first solve the problem of violence and terrorism, and only then start the discussion on the formation of a new government. Such a consequent is dictated by common sense. What kind of a new government can it be spoken of, when internecine war still rages in the country? A universally observed ceasefire is the first and foremost priority, followed by the demobilization of those extremist armed groups which recognize neither the government nor the opposition. Realistically speaking, only then the composition of the new government can be negotiated. Otherwise, the situation, as the recent Libyan example illustrated, will surely take a turn for the worse: the existing government falls, a new rebel one takes its place but not in full control of the country. What would the end result be? In all probability, the extremist Islamist organizations will take advantage to dictate to their own (Sharia) laws.