International Crisis Group – Syria Statement

The International Crisis Group (ICG) made a very well-balanced statement in light of the US’ and France’s call of an international military intervention. Their point is that any solution should be political. Diplomatic efforts and all parties making concessions should lead to a manageable political consensus.

International Crisis Group

International Crisis Group

According to the ICG,

The only exit is political. That requires far-reaching concessions and a lowering of demands from all parties. The sole viable outcome is a compromise that protects the interests of all Syrian constituencies and reflects rather than alters the regional strategic balance;

A crucial point, but is it realistic? Both political and apolitical groups, of any form, seek to look after their interests and demands. While in healthy democracies, concession making forms a rule rather than an exception, I wonder what is the likelihood, in the current dire political and societal crisis in Syria, of parties’ willingness to make concessions. The risk of making too large a concession could be your demise.

Part of the ICG’s Syria Statement, published on 1 September, 2013:

Whether or not the U.S. chooses to launch a military offensive, its responsibility should be to try to optimise chances of a diplomatic breakthrough.  This requires a two-fold effort lacking to date: developing a realistic compromise political offer as well as genuinely reaching out to both Russia and Iran in a manner capable of eliciting their interest Рrather than investing in a prolonged conflict that has a seemingly bottomless capacity to escalate.

In this spirit, the U.S. should present – and Syria’s allies should seriously and constructively consider – a proposal based on the following elements:

  1. It is imperative to end this war. The escalation, regional instability and international entanglement its persistence unavoidably stimulates serve nobody’s interest.
  2. The only exit is political. That requires far-reaching concessions and a lowering of demands from all parties. The sole viable outcome is a compromise that protects the interests of all Syrian constituencies and reflects rather than alters the regional strategic balance;
  3. The Syrian crisis presents an important opportunity to test whether the U.S. and the Islamic Republic of Iran can work together on regional issues to restore stability;
  4. A viable political outcome in Syria cannot be one in which the current leadership remains indefinitely in power but, beyond that, the U.S. can be flexible with regards to timing and specific modalities;
  5. The U.S. is keen to avoid collapse of the Syrian state and the resulting political vacuum. The goal should thus be a transition that builds on existing institutions rather than replaces them. This is true notably with respect to the army;
  6. Priority must be given to ensuring that no component of Syrian society is targeted for retaliation, discrimination or marginalisation in the context of a negotiated settlement.

Such a proposal should then form the basis for renewed efforts by Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint United Nations/Arab League envoy, and lead to rapid convening of a Geneva II conference.

Debate over a possible strike – its wisdom, preferred scope and legitimacy in the absence of UN Security Council approval – has obscured and distracted from what ought to be the overriding international preoccupation: how to revitalise the search for a political settlement. Discussions about its legality aside, any contemplated military action should be judged based on whether it advances that goal or further postpones it.

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