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; Syria’s 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 Syria’s 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 Syria’s transition will be a sectarian free-for-all. Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya’s self-ignited regime changes (unlike Iraq’s 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 country’s 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 Assad’s 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

 

An extraordinary meeting: Gulf ministers agree to end tension with Qatar

US releases $450 million Iranian frozen assets

‘Retaliation is life’ group vows to attack Egypt security forces

Gunmen storm South Sudan UN base killing 20

Malaysia activists: Obama you are not welcome here!

Marzouki sets an 'example' by cutting salary by two-thirds

Rouhani: Iran does not intend to be aggressive but can defend itself

Turkey to Russia: We demand a gas price revision

For Massacre-scarred Algeria village, peace is worth more than wealth

An act of heroism: Iraq policeman sacrifices himself to shield army recruits

UK ‘determined to catch’ killer of Libya embassy policewoman

Experts: Washington demanded removal of Saudi spy chief

Future of Algeria on wheelchair

Palestinians rally for solidarity with Israel-held prisoners

Turkey may clinch bid to dismantle Italy’s wrecked ship

Israeli, Palestinian negotiators to hold meeting with US envoy

UN ‘gravely concerned’ about South Sudan oil state fighting

South Sudan war: Child soldiers consumed by desire for retribution

Algerians casting their vote for president

Syria world’s most perilous country fro journalists

Egypt jails ex-presidential hopeful for fraud

Egypt leftist leader urges all revolutionary groups to unite

Jordan ‘destroyed’ combat vehicles entering from Syria

South Sudan army loses key oil town of Bentiu

Lebanon parliament soon to elect new president

Zarif to discuss Caspion Sea states in Russia

MERS spreading in Saudi Arabia

Algeria finally opens its piggybank to lure back exiled youth

Suicide bombs rock Ramadi government compound

Three Palestinians killed in Gaza blast

Peace talks delayed after Palestine blamed for fatal shooting

Palestinians clash with Israeli police in Al-Aqsa

Undercover New York police unit that spied on Muslims disbanded

Washington will not issue visa for Iran UN envoy

British paedophile gets 20-year sentence in Morocco

Syria army fights its way into besieged Homs

Invisible Bouteflika urges Algerians to vote

Saudi Arabia replaces powerful intelligence chief

Benflis mobilizes ‘army’ to monitor Algeria election

Syria army advances on rebel-held neighbourhoods in Homs

Egypt court bans any Brotherhood candidacies in upcoming elections

Turkey rights groups sound alarm at plan to build gay-only prisons

Kuwait coup plot video ‘neither genuine nor reliable’

Iraq Kurdistan digs trench to prevent militant infiltration from Syria

Saudi urges stern world action against Syria