No alternative to a peaceful solution for Syria

Ahmed El-Sayed Al-Naggar
Saturday 28 Mar 2015

Arab powers, particularly Egypt, must face up to the imperative of pushing a negotiated solution to the Syrian crisis — one above all that preserves the unity of the state

Since the Syrian crisis grew to be a hub of attention for all those concerned with the future and destiny of this nation, it became a topic present in all political and humanitarian debates, official and unofficial.

In dialogue with a high-level Arab official regarding the stance of his country and the Gulf region towards the Syrian crisis in comparison with the Bahraini crisis, the official said that Bahrain is a red line regarding the Gulf region's stability and security. My reply was that Syria's unity and restoration of stability and civil peace there is necessary to its people, Egypt, and the future, independence and destiny of the whole Arab region.

Everyone should acknowledge the necessity of solving the Syrian crisis peacefully without the interference of forces of evil desiring to inflict more fragmentation and destruction on the Arab world for the benefit of the Zionist entity that was founded by raping the land and continues its occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands by relying on the arrogance of power and not on any right whatsoever.

Recent American statements regarding sending troops to train and support the forces attached to it in Syria formed a striking development foreshadowing the repetition of the American crime that destroyed Iraq. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Armed Forces General Martin Dempsey stated this month that there is a possibility of sending American Special Forces units to Syria to back up what he calls "the moderate opposition" whom Washington trains. This moderate opposition constitutes the groups that are subordinate, financed and armed by the West with the "Free Syrian Army" at its core. In the same context, the Pentagon spokesman expected that "the training mission of the Syrian opposition [will take place] in the spring in several locations outside Syria," in some of the region's countries.

A number of Arab and regional powers have contributed directly in sustaining the raging Syrian crisis. These countries participated in this through financing, arming and mobilising terrorist groups such as Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaida and the Islamic State.

Even the opposition and peaceful demonstrations that started by protesting for freedom, and which were oppressed by the Syrian regime with a stupidity similar to that of other tyrannical regimes of the time in Egypt and Tunisia, were transformed into armed movements rapidly. Thus, Syria was driven into an inferno of armed conflict that attracted herds of terrorists in the region and the world.

Some factions of this opposition sought the support of foreign countries that are antagonistic towards Syria, such as France, the former coloniser, and the United States, which is concerned mainly with the security and superiority of Israel, with controlling the powers which may confront it, or fragmenting these powers and smashing them, among which is Syria. This opposition sought the backing of regional powers that have ambitions in Syria or desire to take revenge on it. This has put the opposition's patriotism to the test many times.

The truth is that decent Syrian people are suffering a great deal, where 200,000 Syrian citizens were killed according to United Nations estimates. This amounts to 10 times those martyred by the Zionist entity. Indeed, the burning of countries through inciting infighting between citizens is easier and less expensive for colonial and evil powers and their regional subsidiaries. Moreover, half the Syrian people were displaced; whether they fled to cities and towns within their country or were scattered in other countries to suffer the humiliation of seeking asylum because their homeland descended into terror.

In spite of the significance of the humanitarian aspect, which should drive serious efforts to abate the Syrian inferno, there is a decisive political and strategic necessity for everyone concerned with the future of the Arab region and its national independence to exert all possible efforts to stop the fragmentation of the Syrian state that constitutes a fundamental pillar of the Arab world and a strategic counterweight to the Zionist entity, its injustice and aggression.

It is worth mentioning that the raging conflict in Syria forced the state to withdraw its armed troops from the borderline in the occupied Golan Heights in order to confront armed attacks in the Syrian interior, which are massive in volume, weaponry and finances, and which threaten to destroy the Syrian state. These dangers were exacerbated especially by the rise of the most extreme and terrorist powers such as the Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front, both of which are of the Wahhabi current, from which terrorist groups in religious guise have sprung not only in Syria but in all Arab and Islamic countries.

If all the rival factions in Syria claim they represent the Syrian people and are its mouthpiece, the path to any political settlement of the Syrian crisis should pass through resort to the Syrian people to express their opinion, determine their fate and choose who will rule them. This simply means resorting to elections, the results of which all clashing factions in Syria would be obliged to accept.

A question remains: How to hold free and fair elections in a country torn by war and conflict, with its people under force of compulsion in districts, cities and regions competing groups control?

This question makes the main mission of any political initiative setting the necessary steps for holding elections under Arab and international supervision that excludes those countries involved in the crisis, whether Arab countries or Turkey or the US, France, Germany and Britain. It is better that these countries stay away from any real initiative for solving the Syrian crisis, because — simply put — they are part of the crisis.

Thus, it will be more appropriate that other Arab countries, such as Egypt and Algeria, present an initiative for solving the Syrian crisis. The best thing that remaining Arab countries can do is to support such an initiative or stay silent and refrain from pouring fuel on the fire of the Syrian crisis. 

It goes without saying that holding elections requires stopping all military action and ensuring the right of citizens to vote in a free way without any pressure from groups in this place or that. It also requires consensus between powers that can participate in determining the fate of Syria on isolating and confronting flagrant religious-cum-terrorist powers, such as the Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front.  

Moreover, it requires making legislative amendments with the aim of building a real democratic system. Furthermore, it requires annulling the antagonistic decision of the previous Arab League Summit on the "Syrian National Coalition" occupying the seat of Syria in the Arab League. The sovereignty of the Syrian state must be respected and the seat returned to it in order to make negotiating with it possible and based on respecting the sovereignty of the state — especially that the coalition itself has many standpoints, according to those financing and arming groups falling under its banner.

Paving the way for holding elections requires stopping arms supply and financial support to all infighting parties, to force them to accept holding elections under effective international supervision and to accept the Syrian people's choice — whatever it is — with a readiness to accept the logic of holding accountable those responsible for the horrific abyss of slaughter and displacement into which Syria fell.

Away from what should happen and what is possible within the complexities of the current Syrian situation, at beginning of recorded history Egypt and Syria were one state under one flag. Thus, a psychological, social and civilisational accumulation has been formed, or it implies a high degree of similarity between the two peoples.

He who follows the relationship between Egypt and Syria will find that it started since the ancient Pharaonic era. The obelisk erected by Men-Kheper-Ra, better known as Thutmose III, the greatest warrior king in Ancient Egypt, still stands in a town on the Syrian-Turkish border. In the battle of Qadesh, the local military battalion assigned to defend King Ramses II, who rushed to attack the Hittites hoping to achieve a sudden victory like that of Thutmose III in the Battle of Megiddo, saved Ramses when he found himself besieged and separated from his army and was about to fall in captivity.

The subsequent foreign occupation included Egypt and Syria under one state during the time of the Greeks and the Romans. During the Arab-Islamic era, the two countries were in mostly under single rule. In the modern age, Muhammed Ali, founder of the Egyptian modern state, managed to unify the Levant with Egypt into one state. His son, Ibrahim Pasha, who revived the Egyptian military from a slumber that had lasted 25 centuries and astounded the world with the victories he achieved against the Ottoman Empire, which reached to destroying the Turkish army completely and capturing its commander and its entire fleet, unified the Levant and Egypt under the flag of one country, although for a short period.  

Egypt and Syria were unified in the period from February 1958 until September 1961 during the the rule of late leader Gamal Abdel Nasser and Syrian President Shukri Al-Qawatli. When Egypt and Syria were subject to criminal Zionist aggression in 1967, leaving them defeated without war, they entered into exceptional coordination in order to strike back against the aggression. This culminated in the October War in 1973, which witnessed a concurrent Egyptian and Syrian attack.

In any case, what connects the Egyptian and Syrian people is one of the deepest ties that binds the Egyptian people to any other Arab people. All geostrategic considerations and balances, along with geographic neighbours that occupied Arab lands and countries (specifically Turkey and the Zionist entity), demand doing the impossible to preserve the unity of the Syrian state.

Moreover, any real combating of terrorism must pass through vanquishing the forces of the same that are wreaking havoc and slaughter in Syria — specifically Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State. Let the settlement in Syria be made between the Syrian state and the civil forces that are striving to build an honest democratic system that respects human rights and freedoms, or even that were engaged in a violent confrontation with it. Consideration of contingencies and the realities of balances with local, regional and international powers demand that the opposition reconcile with the Syrian state to save Syria's unity and its decent people.


The writer is chairman of the board of Al-Ahram Establishment.

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