Tuesday September 1, 2015
Israel Hayom
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Israel suspicious of Russian plan to secure Syrian WMDs
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Prof. Eyal Zisser

Compromise? What compromise?

The closer U.S. President Barack Obama gets to the moment of truth -- the moment when Congress decides whether the U.S. will launch a military strike against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad -- the stronger the calls for a diplomatic solution, as expected.

The American administration, for its part, appears determined to continue promoting the idea of a military strike in Syria, but even Secretary of State John Kerry announced Monday that the only way to resolve the conflict in Syria is through diplomacy. It is no wonder then that in Moscow and Tehran, as well as several European capitals, various proposals are already being floated. Starting with the proposition that Assad turn over all his chemical weapons under Russian supervision, and ending with the suggestion that in the next presidential election, scheduled for next year, Syria will allow several candidates to compete democratically, thus putting the fate of the country in the hands of the people. As always, there are rumors that Assad will one day agree to step down in a dignified manner.

But after two and a half years of bloody civil war, I can safely conclude that the conflict will be resolved on the battlefield, not around the negotiating table, and that the only thing that will bring this war to an end is a clear victory by one of the sides, not a highly elusive peace agreement.

Assad could have reached a compromise, and, like deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, relinquished his seat when the opposition was just beginning and the number of casualties was still in the single digits. But true to the aggressive mentality of the Syrian regime and his father, Hafez Assad's legacy, the president opted to send in troops and tanks and suppress the uprising against him. When the protests spread like wildfire throughout Syria, Assad, like the Roman Emperor Nero, chose to continue sitting on his throne and watch the fire burn.

When the revolution just erupted in Syria, it may have been possible to strike an agreement that would have been acceptable to all sides, even to Assad, or at the very least, to his people, the Alawites. But after two and a half years of vicious, tenacious fighting, a compromise is no longer possible. A bloody abyss has now formed between the regime and the opposition, holding the blood of more than 100,000 Syrians. Not to mention the growing radicalism among the rebels and the various extreme Islamist groups now committed to waging jihad.

Assad also knows that in the current reality, he can't just declare his resignation from politics. After all, every sign of personal weakness could easily topple his entire regime, and then, even if all the countries of the world guarantee his safety, there is little chance that he will be able to extricate himself from the presidential palace and the swarms of rebels that will surround it.

Assad always was, and still is, logical and pragmatic. Given the chance to run with a vague proposal, giving him time and removing the threat of an American military strike, in exchange for his willingness, in principle, to hand over his chemical weapons, there is no reason why he would not agree. No one will really examine whether Russian President Vladimir Putin, Assad's ally, actually monitors the transfer of weapons anyway.

But still, it is hard to believe that Assad, who earnestly believes that he was destined to rule over Syria, and who, until now, never recoiled from fighting anyone who rebelled against his rule, will back down at the last minute. Especially now, when he can see the light of victory at the end of the tunnel.

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