Nikolaos van Dam: The Syrian regime is rapidly running out of options

Share
Related Topics

So long down the road, what options does the regime have to bring this crisis to an end? For almost five months now, there have been protests against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. First, they were asking for nothing more than peace, freedom and unity. It was only afterwards that they demanded the downfall of the regime.

The truth is there are not many options, both for the regime, and for their opponents. The regime could try to talk to the opposition, but the problem is that its proposed reform measures regarding multi party democracy and changes to media law simply haven’t gone far enough.

The most significant thing it could do is to stop violence and suppression and see what happens. If demonstrations continue, which they probably will, the regime might lose control over cities – but it would at least provide a better climate for a resolution to the crisis. The dilemma for the regime is if it really does reform, it will lead to its own downfall.

One resolution would be for elements from within the military to move against the regime. Several times we have seen officers break away, but without units they are powerless. And any move against the regime would be extremely difficult, and those behind it would likely be uncovered and killed. Another possibility is civil war, which nobody wants and would bring even more destruction. I have the impression that there are armed groups which have tried to exploit the situation and to jump onto the bandwagon; like Syrian Salafists who have been fighting in Iraq. These groups want to re-establish Sunni dominance in Syria, a country where they are the majority. The present Alawite-dominated regime is considered by many Sunnis as heretic. So it's also important that countries take Syria more seriously when it says it is fighting terrorists.

So what options are there for the international community to force Assad’s hand? There have already been mis-steps. The US is powerless and is not really communicating directly with the regime; their ambassador visited Hama and has lost his position as a neutral. The Turks announced in advance that they were going to convey a tough message. But if you want to influence the Syrians, the dialogue has to be confidential to at least have a chance.

Military intervention is not going to work. Libya is relatively speaking, an easy – albeit thus far not really successful - operation, but in Syria where and who would they attack? Sanctions don’t work, and may even worsen the situation. So we are back to dialogue. And here the voice of Saudi Arabia may prove to be very important.

Nikolaos van Dam is a former Dutch ambassador to various Middle Eastern countries. The fourth edition of his book 'The Struggle for Power in Syria' was released recently

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in August  

Ferguson: Sad truth is that Michael Brown was killed because he was a black man

Bonnie Greer
A protestor poses for a  

Ferguson verdict: This isn't a 'tragedy'. This is part of a long-running genocide of black men in America

Otamere Guobadia
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital