First Published: 2012-08-11


An Orderly Post-Assad Transition


Most analyses of events on the ground rely on facts; but the discussion of how events will unfold in post-Assad Syria is riddled with wildly unsubstantiated speculation and pessimism, often tarnished by doses of Orientalism, anti-Arab and anti-Islamic racism, and plain old-fashioned amateurism and ignorance, says Rami G. Khouri.


Middle East Online

BEIRUT - For months now, speculation by analysts, diplomats, scholars and journalists about the nature of the post-Bashar Assad transition in Syria has been as dynamic as the events on the ground, but with one big difference. Most analyses of events on the ground rely on facts; but the discussion of how events will unfold in post-Assad Syria is riddled with wildly unsubstantiated speculation and pessimism, often tarnished by doses of Orientalism, anti-Arab and anti-Islamic racism, and plain old-fashioned amateurism and ignorance.

The prevalent speculations I refer to include that Syria will long remain locked in domestic strife; the Alawites will face eternal hostility and revenge; sectarian civil war is likely to break out; the post-Assad struggle for power will be chaotic and perhaps violent; Syria could easily break up into several smaller ethnic statelets linked to neighboring states or compatriots; Syrias collapse will trigger warfare across the region, and a few other such scenarios. While some or all of this might happen, I suggest that we must keep open the possibility that Syrias post-Assad transition will be much less chaotic or violent than many fear, for several reasons:

1. The evidence from other Arab transitions offers no support for the expectation that Syrias transition will be a sectarian free-for-all. Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libyas self-ignited regime changes (unlike Iraqs Anglo-American initiated mess) have not only avoided major sectarian troubles or violence, but in fact the relegitimized constitutional processes have included a serious and deliberate attempt to make sure that all population groups are given equal opportunity to partake in public life and governance -- not on the basis of sectarian quotas, but on the basis of equal citizenship.

2. The Syrian people are too intelligent, sophisticated, and cosmopolitan to allow themselves to sink into a dark pit of sectarian warfare, even if their sick Baathist-led, Alawite-run power elite uses sectarianism and the specter of post-Assad chaos as tools of intimidation -- tools that have failed miserably, in any case. Syrians of all identities will be so pleased to start a new life of normalcy, freedom, dignity and citizenship the day after Assad rule is toppled that they will be too busy re-creating their own country in their own image to be sidetracked into domestic warfare. The last thing Syrians want after 42 years of police state rule and 15+ months of violence since March 2011 is to keep fighting each other.

3. The day after Assad will not necessarily be a moment of chaos. A reasonably orderly transition could occur, because a credible, indigenous structure for governance already exists. The dozens, perhaps hundreds, of local committees across Syria that have been organizing the revolt against Assad family rule will emerge the day after with immense legitimacy, authority and logistical capability in governing at the local level. The coordinating, revolutionary, resistance, information, services, medical and other local committees that have operated successfully across the country since March 2011 are likely to move quickly on multiple fronts after Assad falls. They can create a national power-sharing transitional government that makes all Syrians feel they have a say in their countrys management; and which maintains order and security, resumes normal economic activity and basic services provision, and initiates a transitional justice mechanism that will satisfy the widespread and understandable need for justice and accountability for those officials who abused their power and humiliated -- and recently slaughtered -- their countrymen and women for so many years.

4. Syrians know that Assad does not represent all Syrian Alawites, that not all Alawites support Assads vicious policies, and that only some Alawites and other government and security officials are to blame for the violence and intemperance of the regime that has mismanaged the country for decades. Transitional justice mechanisms and respectable constitutional guarantees of equal citizenship for all in the new Syria could prevent an Alawite-Sunni war, or long-term Alawite isolation.

5. Many organized efforts around the world -- in Dubai, Beirut, Istanbul, Washington, Berlin and other cities -- are now working on plans for a post-Assad transition. Most of these will have only minimal relevance, because the only really credible political management work will be done by the local Syrians who emerge from the resistance committees to shape the new government. The importance of the many transition-planning efforts abroad, however, alongside the handful of Syrian governments-in-exile now being established by various opposition groups, is that they confirm the enormous intellectual, political, nationalistic, and technical assets that a free Syria will have at its disposal to redefine itself.

It is entertaining -- and politically or financially profitable for some -- to speculate wildly about terrible days ahead in Syria. It is much more useful to focus on realities, the most important of which is that tens of millions of talented Syrians are eager to get on with their lives as free and equal citizens in a normal and sovereign country. I believe that will happen soon, and I will dance with joy for them when it does.

Rami G. Khouri is Editor-at-large of The Daily Star, and Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, in Beirut, Lebanon.

Copyright 2012 Rami G. Khouri - distributed by Agence Global


Rebels evacuate Syria's Eastern Ghouta

Sarkozy says life ‘living hell’ since corruption allegations

Turkey’s largest media group to be sold to Erdogan ally

Hezbollah leader says debt threatens Lebanon disaster

Exiled Syrian doctors treat refugees in Turkey

In world first, flight to Israel crosses Saudi airspace

Saudi, US must pursue 'urgent efforts' for Yemen peace: Mattis

US, Jordan launch new counterterrorism training centre

Two Hamas security force members killed in raid on bomb suspect

Turkey gives watchdog power to block internet broadcasts

EU leaders to condemn Turkey’s ‘illegal’ actions in Mediterranean

Ahed Tamimi reaches plea deal for eight months in jail

UN launching final push to salvage Libya political agreement

Conditions for displaced from Syria's Ghouta 'tragic': UN

Sisi urges Egyptians to vote, denies excluding rivals

Rights Watch says Libya not ready for elections

Saudis revamp school curriculum to combat Muslim Brotherhood

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump

Syria workers say French firm abandoned them to jihadists

Grim Nowruz for Kurds fleeing Afrin

Sarkozy back in custody for second day of questioning

'Saudization' taking its toll on salesmen

Syrian rebels reach evacuation deal in Eastern Ghouta town

Israel confirms it hit suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007

UN says Turkey security measures 'curtail human rights'

Netanyahu says African migrants threaten Jewish majority

US Senate votes on involvement in Yemen war as Saudi prince visits

What a ‘limited strike’ against Syria’s Assad might mean

Erdogan tells US to stop ‘deceiving’, start helping on Syria

IS controls Damascus district in surprise attack

French ex-president held over Libya financing allegations

NGO says Israeli army violating Palestinian minors’ rights

Human rights chief slams Security Council for inaction on Syria

US warns Turkey over civilians caught in Syria assault

Saudi crown prince keen to cement ties with US

Abbas calls US ambassador to Israel 'son of a dog'

Erdogan vows to expand Syria op to other Kurdish-held areas

Kurdish envoy accuses foreign powers of ignoring Turkish war crimes

Morocco authorities vow to close Jerada's abandoned mines

Israeli soldier sees manslaughter sentence slashed

Turkey insists no plans to remain in Afrin

Cairo voters show unwavering support for native son Sisi

Forum in Jordan explores new teaching techniques

Gaza Strip woes receive renewed attention but no fix is expected

Kurds, Syrian opposition condemn Afrin looting