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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The UCAS clearing house call centre in Cheltenham, England  

Ucas should share its data on students from poor backgrounds so we can get a clearer picture of social mobility

Conor Ryan
A study of 16 young women performing light office work showed that they were at risk of being over-chilled by air conditioning in summer  

It's not just air conditioning that's guilty of camouflage sexism

Mollie Goodfellow
Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks