Monday, October 08, 2012

Farouk al Shara'a and Three Obstacles to a Solution

Anything which will stop the flow of blood in Syria is something that I'd support, however imperfect it is. The news that Ankara called for a transitional government possibly led by Farouk al Shara'a, the vice president, and currently said to be under house arrest, is a good start. I don't think it is a wise idea for people to dismiss him because of his association with the regime. As tyrannical as the Assad reign has been, the laws of politics required a functioning bureaucracy to run the country and ensure a modicum of order. To wipe this away in a wave of enthusiasm will leave the country a basket case. In Iraq, the American occupation made the fatal mistake of disbanding the army and precluding anybody with Baath party membership from continued political involvement. Syria should not do the same.

The problem in Syria was not the Baath party or its ideology, as idiosyncratic as it might have been. The real issue in Syria had been the subversion of constitutional processes and the undermining of the separation of powers which are the basis of a functioning state. Fatal to the Syrian republic was that power was concentrated into the hands of one man, usually through coercion, but also papered over by a rubber stamp parliament and a corrupted judiciary. The Arab disease of military men meddling in politics played a devastating role in Syria and is the root cause of many of our problems. In this light, the Baath party is itself a victim of the militarization of politics. It was the struggle between the civilian and military wings of the party which brought it under the control of the five man oligarchy - of whom Assad was a member - that ruled the country until Assad's ascension to power. Because of this historical fact, membership of the Baath party should not itself be criminalized, and members of the regime on trial in a future Syria should be made aware that they are to be tried for their wrongdoing and not because they lost power.

As such, I think that al Shara'a is a personality which can suitably keep a grip on the underlying structure of the Syrian state, and drive a wedge between Assadism on the one hand, and a nascent Syrian republic. Syria is not a country, but rather an invisible network of relations, tribes and sects which are kept together through constant negotiations, agreements and pacts. As a state, Syria has not existed for over forty years. What is therefore needed is a man who can keep a grip on this byzantine mess until such time as a proper Syrian body politic can be resurrected.

There is nobody associated with Assadism who is not tainted in some way, but in light of Assad's determination to burn the country to a crisp before going, the lesser of two evils could be preferrable to preserve what's left of life and property. Unlike many people, I firmly believe that the removal of Assadism would leave its supporters in disarray, and if the Syrian state remains intact during the process, then it just might be possible for Syria to avoid the Iraq scenario - which should be foremost in everybody's minds.

There are a number of obstacles to a successful Syrian transition led by Shara'a: Firstly Assad has to leave or be toppled, there is just no possibility of productive political dialogue or progress to occur so long as he is around to sabotage it; secondly the Syrian oppositions need to buy into this idea, and refrain from hamstringing the transition government; thirdly, the various armed groups that have emerged since the start of the revolution must be immediately reigned in, and either assimilated into a reformed Syrian army, or dismantled altogether. Any hope of stability in Syria rests on somebody overcoming each of these three problems.

1 comment:

zenxbear said...
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