"There will be either a military coup against Bashar (Al-Assad, president of Syria) or there will be a civil war. These are the only two scenarios ahead of Syria," said the US-based Syrian opposition figure Radwan Ziyadh.
Speaking to Ahram Online while in Cairo recently for talks with top Egyptian and Arab League officials on the kind of support the Syrian opposition, despite its many fragments, would like to see emerge at the League, and from Egypt, Ziyadh was not optimistic about possible Arab influence on developments in Syria. The fact that Arab capitals — and for that matter the Arab League — are willing to "accept a deal by which Bashar's presidency could continue longer, or until its current term expires (in 2014) is not a good beginning," he said.
A collective Arab League initiative that was shrugged off by Damascus asked the Syrian president to end the six-month old bloodshed and violence on the part of the state against demonstrators and to pursue a sequence of democratic reforms to allow for a democratic transition of power.
This Syrian opposition activist has no doubt in his mind that Bashar is not interested in reform. Ziyadh recalls Bashar's promised "Damascus Spring" when he came to power in the wake of his father's death in 2000. "It was all talk and nothing was done and nothing was designed to be done," Ziyadh stated.
For Ziyadh, as for many segments of the Syria-based opposition and that of the Diaspora, the only way to end the current political crisis in Syria is for Bashar and the entire Assad family — principally Maher Assad, Bashar's brother who is in control of the army — to step down and leave the country.
So far, Ziyadh sees no sign of that happening. Foreign diplomats in Syria concur.
"Neither Bashar nor Maher, and by the way they are not very different from one another as some tend to argue, is willing to let go," Ziyadh said in interview with Ahram Online in Cairo.
This intransigence, the Syrian opposition activist added, is solidified due to divisions within the Syrian opposition and the hesitant stance not just on the side of Arab countries, "who are not sure what to do with Syria," but also on the side of key capitals that are not ready to give up on Bashar.
Meanwhile, Ziyadh argued, the interest of the Alawite ruling minority is being compromised. His sources tell him that the Alawites are getting very concerned. "They know that something has to be done if their rule is to be spared, or at least if their interests — especially economic ones, and those are not small at all — to be spared," he said.
As such, Ziyadh does not exclude the scenario of a coup against the Assads from within the army's Alawite generals. If this does not happen, Ziyadh said, it will not be long before the opposition resorts to arms. The volume of talk about the possible armament of the opposition is picking up by the day, and state officials in concerned Western capitals, including Washington, are no longer excluding this possibility.
"There is so much killing, rape and violence and there are no guarantees on any promises that the regime might make (although he does not seem to be making any) to end the violence against the people; the people have to defend themselves," Ziyadh said. He added that once arms are picked by the opposition it would not just be against Bashar, but against Alawites in general. "This is why I think civil war is the only alternative to a military coup," he said.
Civil war in Syria, Ziyadh warned, would not be short, but rather a bloody and long ordeal that may have a negative impact on region's stability in general.