Available in Arabic
Written By: Renas Sino
CEO of TEVIN
Political and journalistic analyses of the past two decades indicate that the main reason for the fall of regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other nations - whose regimes and governments underwent radical changes - was the result of external interference. Yet this analysis is much more moody and urgent, and it is clear that its proponents overlook the internal causes of the structure of these regimes, including the corruption politically and economically of their governments, and the failure of their national states to build upon diversity of politics and culture, Often, Resulting from these causes is resentment and a call for external intervention among people, and the fact that those backing it up - since they have been subjected to these corrupt and oppressive regimes - are desperate to see any kind of reform. The intervention is being performed in the hope of a better future for them, even though they are not sure of its consequences or whether it will reflect positively or negatively on them!
Superpowers such as the United States and Russian, as well as the European Union, bear much of the blame for the inability to achieve the stability that everyone aspires to. I was involved in public affairs when the Syrian protest movement started in 2011. The international community asked us a blunt question: (What's the alternative to the Syrian regime?) And my answer has always been that the alternative is the Syrian people. Based on the same question, Western countries began to support political projects to build a replacement for the Assad regime, but not all of them lived up to the alternative that Western countries aspired to, since they do not understand the nature of geopolitical and social relations and the absence of a strategy for change, not just because of the failure of Syrian politicians. As a result, the focus seemed to be on managing the crisis, not ending it. Over the years, Russia has chipped away at the West's projects little by little, until they have nothing left but the Turkish project and its allies, Al-Nusra Front (Jabhat Al-Nusra) and the Syrian mercenaries under the name of the Syrian National Army, as well as the allies of the United States the Autonomous Administration project in northern and eastern Syria.
In today's situation, the prospects for a resolution in Syria are unclear, and all indications shows that they have been tilted in favor of Russia, especially as expectations for an imminent withdrawal by the United States and its allies have grown. A lack of clarity regarding the potential strategy of the Biden administration, reduction of diplomatic personnel, size, shape, and objectives of American support, and statements from American officials reminiscent of holding the stick from the middle are all issues that are similar to those in Afghanistan. The mood shape of public affairs personnel who are not optimistic that the United States will remain in northern and eastern Syria are also haunted by the nightmare of the American withdrawals from Talabiad and Ra's Al-Ayn.
Since the US withdrew from Afghanistan, the possibility of a future withdrawal from Syria has become a constant axiom, and the actions of both local and international actors have increased this possibility. Almost every new military operation is preceded by the announcement of a new formation by the "Syrian National Army," the numerous meetings (Bashar-Putin, Putin - Biden, Putin - Erdogan) and leaks about Turkish-Syrian intelligence meetings, the Egyptian gas plan, and normalization of Jordanian-Syrian relations. These factors made the general mood inclined to the idea that there will be an end to the Syrian crisis, and that the Syrian government will return to control the rest of the country and it is linked directly with the US withdrawal from north and eastern Syria.
The US withdrawal.
Northern and eastern Syria are less concerned about withdrawal and more concerned with the following questions: When? How? What happens after the withdrawal?
Stability and balance are important factors of American presence, which is the safety valve to restrain Russia, Turkey, and Iran (the Astana Group) as they await the moment when the last American soldier leaves Syria to pounce on what the United States has left behind, but its withdrawal will result in catastrophic results, because not only will the Syrian regime seize power, but Astana's local allies, national army groups, and Iranian militias will do the same, In doing so, they will encourage other authoritarian regimes or groups to commit war crimes, and will undermine efforts by civil society to achieve a pluralistic democratic state, In addition to undermining the efforts to fight ISIS, it will also provide it with resources, training, and a base from which to attack regional and international security stability. The ongoing conflict in Syria has militarized thousands of fighters, and any security vacuum in the region will turn them into commodities in the black market, for use in international conflicts and to settle accounts outside Syria, just as Syrian fighters were sent to Libya and Armenia in the past, Having played a key role in achieving parity in the balance of power, the United States must keep its military presence in Syria until a comprehensive peace agreement is reached for Syria that assures their allies a better future within the country.
By cooperating between the U.S. and Russia and by organizing the Syrian file separately from the remaining outstanding issues between them, this political stagnation can be solved. In order to overcome the Syrian crisis, the parties will have to cooperate more closely.
For the United States to reflect this cooperation in the Autonomous Administration's and Syrian government's agreement, it is recommended that they avoid the gaps in the Dara'a Agreement. Considering past experience, it is easy to trust neither the Syrian government nor the Iranian militias on the ground, hence both countries should sponsor and guarantee the agreement, to legitimize and politicize the Syrian agreement, negotiations must address some form of autonomy as a sustainable guarantee that will safeguard Syrians against a counterbalance and should be linked to UN resolutions, especially 2254, and ratified by the Security Council.
The Powers and Syria's Return to Square One
Russia appears more balanced in this regard and unwilling to make concessions, particularly since Astana is a key path for them. They may give the green light to United States' NATO ally, Turkey to conquer other areas of the country in exchange for Russia's nibbling of Turkish-backed Syrian opposition areas if they are unable to obtain satisfactory concessions from the United States for two reasons: first, the U.S. exit and the shrinking of its spheres of influence is a priority, and second, its confidence that Turkey will not stand up to it if the United States leaves."
Therefore, conditional political recognition by the United States and its allies, along with a demand for greater guarantees of more inclusion and involvement in the Autonomous Administration, will prove a powerful factor in supporting it in the negotiations and will allow it to maintain a long-term diplomatic presence. One of today's biggest questions is whether Autonomous Administration is able to fully govern the governorates of Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa, as well as maintain the pluralistic model of governance? In its negotiations with the Syrian government.
Dialogue with Turkey A recent Washington visit by Elham Ahmed, during a seminar at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies, said that SDF is willing to dialogue with Turkey and resolve issues peacefully, in exchange for addressing Kurdish-related issues, including those in northern Syria that came under Turkish control after Operation (Olive Branch) and Peace Spring). It is obvious that dialogue with Turkey is dependent on an end to demographic change, removal of all factions from the national army, and the voluntary and safe return of IDPs to their homes, On the other hand, Turkey wants guarantees to protect its southern borders? The departure of the PKK fighters and their separation from the Democratic Union Party.
Given these conditions, it becomes clear that the United States' task of facilitating a dialogue between Turkey and the SDF to end all war procedures and establish good neighborly relations is very difficult. However, a "step-by-step" strategy and trade exchange and economic cooperation can be beneficial. The United States must persuade Turkey to abandon its rigid and racist conciliator attitudes toward the Kurds if normalization and improvement are to occur, and the Democratic Union Party must be more flexible in engaging in this. There are several parties that can play a role in this dialog, such as the Kurdish National Council and Erbil as well as the People's Democratic Party of Turkey since there can be no peace between Turkey and the Autonomous Administration apart from the peace process in Turkey. Therefore, we need a comprehensive peace process that achieves both political and economic stability for all people and regions.
Form of governance
While some political parties associated with the Autonomous Administration and other political forces outside it and civil society members in northern and eastern Syria have attempted to promote democracy, human rights, and freedoms, the authority of the Democratic Union Party currently represents one that is not subject to legal accountability but to party accountability. The government is reluctant to share power with any other parties, despite repeated statements from its leaders urging them to get involved. Moreover, bad economic conditions and housing shortages are also factors leading to the collapse of trust in the project. It appears that the Kurdish National Council does not have an effective project and its leaders have aligned themselves with the violations taking place in the Olive Branch and the Peace Spring, which may have negative effects not just politically, but also generally on its base of support.
In light of these factors, the United States and its allies should exert more efforts to encourage Kurdish-Kurdish dialogue, as well as work to form a more balanced government in which all components are involved and where opportunities are equally distributed politically and economically. The social contract, which the Autonomous Administration is working on offers a tremendous opportunity for decentralization from an administrative to a political relationship between all three governorates, which may provide a basis for creating the future form of government in Syria. In addition, one mechanism to ensure components' rights and their involvement in decision making is the development of cultural autonomy for some components, such as the Assyrians and Yazidis, which later can be extended to other national and religious components in Syria, but of course, such transformation takes time and a strong ruling party, and here the PYD will play that role until fair and transparent elections are held based on a social contract that has been agreed upon.
It is important to separate the Institutions of Autonomous Administration from the partisan, clan, and other influences, and work to strengthen their governance, relying on technocrats rather than party cadres or unqualified administrators who participate in government according to ethnic or clan quotas.
To achieve all these transformations, the United States of America must be serious about providing adequate support for the establishment of governance in northern and eastern Syria. In addition to the development of the economy and infrastructure, a change in the self-management philosophy of the social market economy must also be made. This requires support in the areas of political development, governance, and the promotion of human rights, freedoms, and women's rights, we must abandon the paradigm of short-term financing, the "non-strategic" to develop a system of governance that is sustainable for 30 years instead of 3 months.
The European role, and reconstruction.
Europeans should not cower behind the United States. In order to protect their interests, help the Syrian people, and play a greater role in Syria, the reconstruction file can play an important role in increasing the European role in the stability of Syria and the Middle East, as well as forming a basis for building common interests amongst all former parties.
If there was a serious will to reach a Russian-American agreement and to find a real solution to the Syrian conflict. This reconstruction card will be extremely significant and will have a great impact on the intentions of all parties. The reconstruction process can then begin in stages, and in order to avoid the Syrian government and its allies' lack of commitment, the process can be initiated from north and east Syria. If all international and regional parties are drawn into the reconstruction process, with those countries as well as Russia, the United States, Erbil, and Turkey, it can mitigate the humanitarian crisis and increase stability, which in turn will open new opportunities for a comprehensive reconstruction effort.
Previously, all agreements were framed with a period of time that did not correspond to the size of the outstanding issues or the volume of work they needed. So, a time frame that enables solid construction will ease pressures on all parties, and for the previously mentioned US-Russian cooperation and Kurdish-Turkish cooperation, as well as developing the form of government, requires a period lasting 3 to 5 years.
A number of the political transition procedures in Syria may differ among the multiple parties, and it will not be possible to force a consensus among all international players, but the United States must play a fundamental role in finding radical solutions. Since it is the only influential actor on the ground and in foreign policy that opposes the policies of demographic change and nibbling, which are now normalizing the Syrian crisis and opening the floodgates to even more intense civil wars in the future.