OPINION | What Awaits for Syria in 2016
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OPINION | What Awaits for Syria in 2016

By Mohammad Ali Dastmali
Regional Political Analyst

Consequences of the Strengthening of Daesh in Raqqah and Dissolution of Syria’s Baath Party

At the beginning of the new Christian year, as the Syrian crisis entered its fifth year, talking about “historical memory” and the need to revisit archives and libraries, review the 20th century’s developments, and focusing on historical grounds of the ongoing political events in the region and the world seem inevitable.

OPINION | What Awaits for Syria in 2016

To analyze the current situation in Syria, it would be appropriate to conduct a short and brief study of the history with regard to the consequences of the World War 2 and the breeding grounds for Syria’s Baath party. Let’s remember that at that time, Michel Aflaq, a Syrian Christian, and Salah al-Din al-Bitar, a Syrian Sunni Muslim, established the Baath party in 1944 in a bid to put an end to France’s control over Syria. However, socialist and Arab nationalist ideas were later added to the party’s original idea and one can claim that it was this party and its later changes that provided grounds for the former Syrian president, Hafez Assad, to rise to power. Hafez Assad, like many other military men in his country, took part in the coup d'état staged in 1963. During a later coup in 1966, he became the country’s defense minister and in the 1970 coup d'état, he took over the entire power and found the opportunity to serve his country’s people as president for a period of forty years. After his demise, his son, Bashar took over the power. In simple and clear words, since 45 years ago, the father and son have not made anybody their partner in their secular as well as military and security system of rule, and this is the factor that can be mentioned as the most important foundation as well as theoretical and practical characteristic of the Baath party of Syria.

Opponents’ positions, heavy presence of Daesh and Russia’s show of force

Following this short introduction, now we can try to find an answer to this question that “is it really necessary to consider the change of president, and in simpler words, toppling Bashar Assad, as the most important option to end Syria crisis?” Or is there any need to another large-scale scenario like “revising the Baath system of Syria and its power maintenance mechanisms?”

Perhaps, this question could be easily and firmly answered if a very powerful opposition force existed, which would be able to replace the current regime as a suitable alternative. However, a review of the situation of Syria opposition will easily show that the opposition forces (not terrorists) are not able to turn their ideals into the foremost discourse of all social elements of Syrian people in political and theoretical spheres in an integrated and consolidated manner, and regardless of the degree of their military and defense capabilities. Especially at the present juncture, apart from all political, organizational, financial and military problem, the Syrian opposition groups are also facing two other major problems one of which is the presence of Daesh terrorist and Takfiri forces in Syria with the other one being the show of force by Russia in Syria. At present, Russia is using its powerful air raids, and by bombarding the positions of Turkmens, Jaish al-Islam, the Free Syrian Army and other groups it does not allow them to make new advances against the government forces let alone toppling Assad and taking over the power in Syria.

Another riddle and ambiguous situation with regard to the present and future scenarios of Syria is the issue of the Syrian city of Raqqah. As we know, Raqqah is located in northern part of Syria and close to Turkey’s border and enjoys very important military and defense position. However, during at least the past three years, the city has been impenetrable fortress and the most vital stronghold of Daesh, which has been called the center of the Islamic caliphate of Daesh in Syria. One of the most important reports related to Daesh in the past few days was an agreement between Assad’s government and Daesh forces, according to which, members of Daesh and their families, who were present on the suburbs of Syrian capital, Damascus, were allowed to leave that region and move to Raqqah. In other words, through consultations conducted by the UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura and a preliminary agreement between Russia and Damascus, it was decided that Daesh would have nothing to do with Damascus anymore and transfer its forces to Raqqah.

Taking into account the important geographical position of Raqqah and Daesh’s firm control over the city and also due to difficulties faced for launching land or air strikes against the city, and given the fact that the agreement between Damascus and Daesh to allow Daesh force move toward Raqqah is a sign of the difficult situation of the Syrian government and the weakness of Daesh, certain ideas can be offered on this strange decision and agreement. Every one of these ideas can be then used as a premise for a specific scenario on the future of Syria:

Firstly, this decision shows that Damascus and Moscow and even their other allies and supporters have probably accepted that a special de facto status and position must be given to Daesh in Raqqah, so that, this group will have nothing to do with other parts of the country and continue to survive in the city.

Secondly, apart from its benefits for the restoration of security to Damascus and Aleppo, concentration of Daesh forces in Raqqah can face Turkey with a very serious threat in its proximity and this situation would serve as some sort of balancing factor along Turkey’s border with Syria. Apart from Turkey, it can be even used to strike a balance among Kurds and the Turkmen and other opposition forces as well.

Thirdly, leaving Raqqah to Daesh may, on the surface, seem to be the sign of inability of Damascus and Moscow to shatter the stronghold of Daesh, but it can also mean that the involved parties have reached the threshold of decision making and decision taking on the positioning of the opposition forces, and be considered as some sort of relative division of power. Such a situation will probably lead to relative restoration of security in northern Syria as well as the regions of Aleppo and Damascus over medium term.

Fourthly, this decision is a serious effort to counter the ideas of the United States and Turkey to create a buffer zone in the Syrian cities of Azaz and Jarabulus, and consolidate their control over the western banks of the Euphrates. At the same time, one may claim that most possibly, the concurrence between recent killing of Zahran Alloush and some other commanders of Jaish al-Islam, who were affiliated to Turkey and Qatar, and Daesh terrorists leaving the suburbs of Damascus cannot be unrelated to this idea.

Perhaps, other ideas and scenarios can be added to the above list, but at any rate, the reality is that this short-term and unsustainable idea cannot lead to resolution of Syria crisis and provide suitable ground for full restoration of security to the country. For complete resolution of Syria crisis, apart from the need to solve the big problem of the presence of terrorist and Takfiri groups, another important and vital issue is the necessity of revising the structure of the Baath party and the way that Syria’s affairs are managed. This is true, because even if the party were able to weather the current crisis, which is a remote possibility, at another juncture, the consequences of the iron fist policy would once again face Syria with crisis and, therefore, the important idea of the need to revise the way Syria is managed must receive serious attention.

Key Words: Syria, Possible Scenarios, New Year, Consequences, Daesh, Raqqah, Dissolution, Baath Party, Opponents, Russia, Turkey, Dastmali

Source: Iranian Diplomacy (IRD)

Translated By: Iran Review.Org
Translated By: Iran Review.Org