Analysis by Robert S. Ford | Senior Fellow - The Middle East Institute
Tweeted by the @MiddleEastInst
The position of the Syrian president and the total lack of rule of law to restrain the four secret police services, the fearsome security apparatus of Syria (the Military Intelligence Directorate, Air Force Intelligence etc).
“Those who think that just replacing Assad with another figure, even a neutral one, should end the fighting aren't thinking about that security apparatus and the total lack of rule of law to restrain it.”
“Any transition must include agreement over the fate of the ferocious intelligence agencies.”
"The grisly photos of thousands of victims of the Military Intelligence Directorate revealed by a defector code-named "Caesar" show the work of a large, ruthless secret police apparatus."
Related tweet from UK Special Representative for Syria, retweeted by the Syrian Coalition
Photograph from The Guardian
"A man reacts as he looks at some of Caesar’s photographs, at the UN in New York. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters"
end of reference
Excertps from R.S. Ford analysis continued:
"Syrians must negotiate the details of this transition and whom and what a new government must include. That negotiation will be exceptionally hard, and the toughest part will be about the extent of change in the "deep state." Holding the security apparatus accountable and ensuring its loyalty to a transition government will require more than removing and replacing the four agencies' chiefs. (Moreover, it is far from certain that Russia or Iran would agree to press for even that relatively small change.) The ill-conceived American measures in Iraq in 2003 that helped collapse the Iraqi state also suggest the answer is not wholesale dismissal of security apparatus officials either, as some in the opposition demand."
"Instead, finding an acceptable, durable blend of old and new—of loyalists, oppositionists, and independents—in sensitive slots up to the presidency, will be arduous. No foreign state would be able to find that blend better than Syrian negotiators. Iraqis, divided as they were in 2006 and 2010, managed to negotiate new governments successfully and better than what the American coalition authority and the UN dictated in 2003 and 2004. That is another lesson all our countries should learn from the bitter American experience in Iraq."
"The contact group could insist that the government and the rebels bring delegations to talks and insist that negotiators stay in the room. This time, there can be no walkouts or boycotts or refusals to talk as occurred in Geneva in early 2014. The contact group could usefully begin considering whether and how an international peacekeeping force might help."
Assad says no political reforms until after the war against "terrorists" is won & stability is restored washingtonpost.com/world/middle_e…
Publication date: 2015-09-30
The first wave of Russian airstrikes seemed to focus on rebel areas that threaten the Assad regime's Alawite heartland, showing that Moscow is more focused on seizing the mantle in Syria's war than fighting terrorists.
Focus on rebels at Homs
"Talbisah, a village ten kilometers north of Homs, in the rebel pocket of Rastan (…). The strategic goal of the Russian strikes is to help the Syrian army and Hezbollah eliminate this rebel enclave and better protect Homs. The action could also push the 1,500 rebels still occupying the Waar district on the outskirts of Homs to seriously negotiate their departure, as they did when leaving the city center in April 2014."
Focus on rebels near Latakia - Jabal al-Akrad
"Russian strikes in Latakia province have hit Jabal al-Akrad, the mountainous area around Salma held by rebels since 2012. The stronghold constitutes a direct threat to Latakia city (…) Russia will need to erase this rebel area if it hopes to secure the northern edge of the Assad regime's Alawite heartland -- which Moscow hopes will be the headquarters of its present and future military bases in Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean."
Key point near the Aleppo highway
"Another target struck today was located near Mehardeh, a small Christian city in Hama province that is under threat from Jabhat al-Nusra. Mehardeh is loyal to Assad because its Christian population is surrounded by large Sunni-majority communities. The city is also a key point in the Hama frontline near the Aleppo highway, which the Syrian army has been trying to reopen for three years without success. More broadly, a robust Russian military intervention in the Aleppo area could place Moscow at the center of the Syrian chessboard."
“History” or the “Collection of Precedents”
Foreign Affairs article by Edward P. Joseph, published on 2015-09-29, cites the 1998 Foreign Affairs Essay entitled “Making Bosnia Work: A Report From the Field” by Charles G. Boyd (cf. link below)
“For example, the core element of the Dayton agreement that ended the war in Bosnia, the country’s 51/49 territorial split, was well known to the parties before they ever set foot in Ohio.”
(published in 1998)
“Partition is what exists in Bosnia today. Dayton outlined a central government sufficiently weak that the minorities could maintain the autonomy essential to their sense of security. But Dayton did not explicitly acknowledge the right of the minorities to govern themselves (…). The longer that right is not acknowledged, the more suspicious Bosnian Croats and Serbs become that the real motive (…) is to force their subordination in a Muslim-dominated unitary state-the precise issue over which the war was fought in the first place.”
Kenneth Schultz, professor of political science at Stanford University,” who specializes in international conflict and conflict resolution, pointed to the solution reached in Bosnia some 20 years ago: The former Yugoslav republic’s borders have been maintained, but minority Serbs run an autonomous state-within-a-state. “If I thought about a model that could work for Syria it would be the Bosnia model, where you maintain the unity of the state but you partition it into reasonably autonomous areas,” he said.”
"The debate in the region and in international capitals has centered on Assad’s fate, what might replace his government and whether he should be allowed a face-saving transitional role. But as the highly authoritarian state has disintegrated and the deaths and population transfers have mounted, sectarian hatreds have become so inflamed that the bigger question is impossible to ignore."
"“After the destruction and killings that took place, it is difficult for the Syrian people to coexist [in] a central state,” said Mustafa Osso (...). He favors not total partition but federalization."
“The idea of dividing the country among various groups is not new: About a century ago French and British colonists carved up much of the Middle East, spoils of war taken from the Ottoman empire.
Awarded the area to become modern Syria, the French in the 1920s toyed with the idea of ethnically cohesive statelets. They envisioned six areas, including the State of Alawites, a state for the Druze and a State of Aleppo. But in the end a unitary state was established instead.”
"Many countries found themselves with diverse populations – like Africa’s Nigeria, at loggerheads between a Muslim-dominated north and a Christian south."
"In some cases a breakup eventually proved possible: Eritrea splitting from Ethiopia, for example, and the more recent independence of South Sudan."
"The French divided Syria up into separate states. While this often is said to have been a policy to divide and weaken the country, the states were profoundly logical, reflecting the religious and historical divisions of Syria: dividing between two potent cities, and squaring out two vital minorities, the non-Muslim groups of Alawites and Druze. Also, it must be noted, the French had already profound experience in keeping together regions far larger than Syria, then in particular in North Africa."
However things play out here, “Syria as we’ve known it since it was formed 100 years ago – it’s finished, I think,” said Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at The Washington Institute for Near East policy. “What the international community will have to recognize is de facto partition, and work with different parties to try and stabilize those areas.”
“Even though a lot of newly independent states after World War II in Africa, the Middle East and Asia have borders that were drawn by colonizers, the strong tendency within international law has been to respect those boundaries,” said Kenneth Schultz, professor of political science at Stanford University.
"Dividing the country up would bring to the surface the complication that key cities like Aleppo and Damascus remain too mixed for a simple divorce."
"Partition in such mixed areas can open the door to new horrors. Images of Sarajevo – the ethnically mixed Bosnian capital devastated by civil war in the 1990s – come to mind."
"Some believe the components of a looser federated state might in some cases be based on sects that dominate and in other cases simply on the geographical area, which might remain mixed.
Tarek Abdul-Hai, an anti-Assad Druze activist, said people were increasingly thinking in terms of “cantons,” a subdivision term used in placid Switzerland. “Impoverishment and fear” were driving people to depend on local allies, “and these are the cantons.”
“If there is partition, it will begin with the coast,” he predicted, because the situation is “pushing the Alawites to rally around a special clear geography to protect themselves.”
"Alawites undoubtedly fear repercussions in a post-Assad Syria they would likely no longer dominate."
"The past weeks’ Russian deployment, focused on the Alawite coast, is seen by some in this context: While Russia, like Assad, favors maintaining a unified Syria, its actions suggest an effort to shore up the Alawite heartland as well."
Edward P. Joseph in his Foreign Affairs article suggests to proceed immediately with proposing a peace plan (if necessary offering options to choose from) and then to focus dialogue on specifics
Publication date: 2015-09-29
A peace plan “(…) which finally addresses the core issues of the conflict, including what a successor Syrian state would look like—is an essential, if not sufficient, ingredient for peace. For example, the core element of the Dayton agreement that ended the war in Bosnia, the country’s 51/49 territorial split, was well known to the parties before they ever set foot in Ohio.”
“how much power Sunnis should have; whether Syria will be a unitary or federal state; how and when will the constitution be written; how, when, and in what sequence local and national elections will be held; who will provide security and other assistance to the parties if they accept the terms; and what protections will there be for non-Sunni minorities, in particular, for once-ruling Alawis.”
“a half-hearted policy that didn’t change until nearly four years later when President Bill Clinton grasped the strategic dimensions of the conflict and, with force and diplomacy, brought the war in Bosnia to an end.”
“Four years into the war in Syria, with more than 200,000 dead, half the country displaced and a refugee crisis in Europe, U.S. President Barack Obama finds himself at a similar inflection point.”
“The crux of the Syria problem is straightforward: how to simultaneously address the threat posed by the Islamic State (also called ISIS) and other radical Sunni factions while grappling with the fact that the primary culprit for the violence remains the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad. At the United Nations this week, Putin offered a plan to address the former while doing nothing about the latter.”
“outside actors have only limited power against Sunni extremists. Ultimate success against ISIS will only come when a critical mass of Sunnis rises up to join the fight. The United States belatedly grasped this fact in Iraq, finally pressuring Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to leave office as a way of reaching out to Sunnis. Although a full Sunni awakening has yet to reoccur, the elements are at least in place to produce one. Yet somehow, the United States imagines that the same equation does not hold true in Syria, where Sunnis constitute the vast majority.”
“There’s a better way to address the problem: finally give the Sunnis of Syria—even those who have joined the extremists out of desperation—an affirmative reason to join in the fight against ISIS.”
“Expecting the sides to agree to dialogue before peace terms have been proposed is putting the cart before the horse. Instead, a defined concept of what peace would actually look like—of what a successor Syrian state would look like—is an essential, if not sufficient, ingredient for peace. For example, the core element of the Dayton agreement that ended the war in Bosnia, the country’s 51/49 territorial split, was well known to the parties before they ever set foot in Ohio.”
“Now is the time to create a real peace plan that would shape the future Syria by finally giving Alawites and other minorities who cling to the regime out of fear a reason to consider ditching the dictator.”
“Proffering a peace plan is far less daunting than it sounds. Years of consultation with the various Syrian factions and the government have already illuminated the core issues. Ample lessons, good and bad, can be applied from Iraq, Lebanon, and Tunisia, as well as from the Balkans. The plan need not supply every detail. Indeed, in some places it can offer up options for the parties to choose from. What the plan must do, at a minimum, is address the existential concerns of the Alawites, the Sunni opposition, Christians, Kurds, and Palestinians."
Analysis on Syria
Article by Marc Pierini
Tweeted by Carnegie Middle East @CarnegieMEC
Publication date: 2015-09-22
Charlie Rose Retweeted 60 Minutes
Charlie Rose added,
Charlie Rose Show @CharlieRoseShow 2015-09-30
Charlie Rose Show @CharlieRoseShow 2015-09-30
Excerpts (from transcript mentioned above)
President Putin: Well, you're right. We support the legitimate government of Syria. And it's my deep belief that any actions to the contrary in order to destroy the legitimate government will create a situation which you can witness now in the other countries of the region or in other regions, for instance in Libya where all the state institutions are disintegrated. We see a similar situation in Iraq. And there is no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism. But, at the same time, urging them to engage in positive dialogue with the rational opposition and conduct reform.
Charlie Rose: Much is being read into this including this, that this is a new effort for Russia to take a leadership role in the Middle East and that it represents a new strategy by you. Is it?
President Putin: Not really. No. More than 2,000 fighters from Russia and Ex-Soviet Republics are in the territory of Syria. There is a threat of their return to us. So instead of waiting for their return, we are better off helping Assad fight them on Syrian territory. So this is the most important thing which encourages us and pushes us to provide assistance to Assad. And, in general, we want the situation in the region to stabilize.
"Fabrice Balanche, an associate professor and research director at the University of Lyon 2, is a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute."
Weakened Northwest Front
Since spring 2012, the armed opposition has controlled Jabal al-Akrad and the area along the Turkish border, up to the Armenian village of Kassab.
In March 2014, jihadist groups, coming partly from Turkey, invaded Kassab and destroyed the Russian radar station atop Jabal Aqra. But, unable to progress southward, they left Kassab that June.
To the west of Idlib, Jisr al-Shughour, and Ariha, a geographical continuum exists between Jabal al-Akrad and the northwestern rebel zone, posing a real threat to regime control in Latakia.
Assad needs to show he is protecting "Alawistan," unless he wants Alawite soldiers to take matters into their own hands and renounce their government support.
During July and August 2015, the rebel offensive in the al-Ghab plain threatened Latakia and the underpopulated Alawite villages in northern Jabal al-Ansariyya.
Many Russians are living in Latakia, and they understand very well the sectarian problem facing the city and countryside alike.
Given all these dynamics, the risk of a Sunni uprising in Latakia still exists. The Sunni suburb of al-Ramel al-Filistini has been surrounded by the Syrian army since the August 2011 uprising, and many residents are awaiting the right moment to act.
For the rebels, gaining access to the sea is both strategic and symbolic.
To begin with, the road to Latakia is more accessible than the Tartus road. In addition, Tartus -- as contrasted with Latakia -- is a true Alawite city (…)
Complicating other jihadist roads to the sea are Hezbollah and the Syrian army, which are stiffly controlling the Lebanese border (...)
Toward this end, the Russian navy still holds its base in Tartus and plans to rebuild the former Soviet submarine base in Jableh, some twenty miles south of Latakia.