Friday, 12 July 2013

Syria: When enemies become allies

Whoever eventually claims victory in Syria, their greatest challenge will be to prevent the country following their neighbour Iraq into the sectarian abyss.

Although reconciliation may now look like an impossible aspiration, there is one, and possibly only one way, of achieving this.

As al-Qaeda and it's affiliates become more entrenched, moderate Syrian Sunnis should now see where their country is headed, and encouraged to go to Geneva. The prerequisite, or result, of any talks must be a cease-fire, the withdrawal of all foreign fighters, followed by constitutional reforms and safeguards, parliamentary and presidential elections etc.

Sounds simple enough, but the reality on the ground is that while Hezbollah will undoubtedly leave when ordered to, the foreign (and local) jihadists will just as likely continue to follow their own agenda, which has never included peace or democracy for Syria.

If we in the West can set aside our obsession with removing Assad, and try instead to show the moderate rebels where their future lies, there may yet be cause for optimism. For if the regular Syrian army and the rebel militias could be cajoled to join together to drive the extremists from their land, there lies hope that a true and lasting peace could follow.

There is little that unites former enemies more than the need to fight a common foe.