x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Political solution in Syria is little more than illusion

If arming the rebels in Syria seems bad, a political resolution in Al Assad's favour would be far worse.

As Syria's civil war reaches stalemate, grinding through its third summer, the potential options for how the Arab Spring's deadliest and most intractable conflict will end seem increasingly bleak.

For all the debate about whether the solution will be military or political, both options would seem to offer similar scenarios. One thing is clear: the option of a political solution in which life could revert to a version resembling how it was before is long gone. The blood of the more than 100,000 Syrians killed in the conflict precludes that.

A negotiated political solution is still possible but not as widely understood, with Bashar Al Assad as a partner in peace efforts. The increasing success of the Assad regime's forces means that while the immediate combat might end, there would inevitably be bloody payback against the sectors of society that backed the rebels.

The military options seem no less bleak. Mirroring the dissent and discord that has afflicted both the rebel groups fighting in Syria and also the political groups that aspire to speak on behalf of free Syrians, the nations of the West that have supported the uprising are also making conflicting decisions.

Just as the members of the US Congress finally approved arming moderate opposition groups in Syria, their counterparts in the House of Commons staged a backbench revolt that saw Prime Minister David Cameron announcing that it would not be sending arms.

There are justified concerns that arms would end up in the hands of extremists and also that arming the rebels will merely protract the conflict rather than altering its apparent trajectory.

We disagree. Given the abhorrent outcome of a political solution at a time when Mr Al Assad's forces are ascendant, arming the rebels might not lead to a military solution but it will enable them to reach a much stronger position so that the eventual political settlement will be on terms that are far more acceptable than is likely now.

The scenarios faced by most Syrians now is not a choice between good and bad. It is between bad, worse and unthinkable.

In a conflict measured as much in human suffering as it is by gains and losses on the battlefield, the nations that have backed the opposition owe it to all Syrians to ensure the outcome is acceptable. The alternative is truly unthinkable.