Syria Inside
Is the political solution close in Syria ?

Is the political solution close in Syria ?


Researcher and Journalist :YahyaAl-Hajj Naasan

Even Though the recent diplomatic steps suggest that political solution in Syria is approaching, supported by the a Russian, Saudi, Qatari, Turkish rapprochement in addition to the rising danger of ISIS from one side, and the Russian suggestion regarding anti-terrorism and the Iranian initiative on the other hand. Still, the Russian – Iranian positions do not match American-Saudi-Turkish positions with regards to Assad and his role in the next stage.



The Syrian crisis,with the bloody events and consequences of a humanitarian tragedy continuing for five years now, is still a dilemma for the international community and neighboring countries. Every time there is a spark for a solution, it would be turned off because of the Syrian complicated and difficult problem in regard to subjective and external factors.  (1)

The subjective factors involve revolutionary yearning for drastic change, and ideological factorscomplicated by racial and ethnic factors which produce diverse obstacles preventingthis change.On the other hand, international factors summarized by conflicting international positions; as Russia and Iran opposechange in general; while the USA and some Gulf States and Turkey support change but as per their interests and views that are different from one another.

“Geneva IConference” on June 30th 2012 is considered to be the only conference on Syria that had an Arab, Regional and international consensus  and adopted by the Security Council.The resolution stipulatedthe establishment of a transitional government body with full executive powers , composed of members from the present government and opposition , but the American-Russian differences in regard of interpreting the agreement related to President Bashar Al-Assad's role and his fate prevented carrying out this agreement which is still the only acceptable basis in the Syrian crisis. (2)

The political conferences followed on Syria , Geneva II , Cairo I and II conferences , and Moscow I and II talks ; all based on the resolution of Geneva I , especially with regards to the transitional government , on which the dispute rose between the concerned international parts.

After that the Syrian crisis got complicated and linked to other regional and international issues  , most important of which is the appearance of ISIS as a new player in Syria, as a result of the international failure to reach a solution on Syrian crisis.Beside Al-Houthicoup in the Yemen and the direct Saudi intervention there to protect the president AbdRabbuh Mansur Hadi'sgovernment , in addition to the nuclear agreement between Iran and 5+1 group and American-Iranian rapprochement followed that agreement , and the Gulf States concern  about it (3).

A new issue appeared recently related to the Syrian crisis, namely the Kurdish issue, and the Turkish concern of creating an autonomous Kurdish state on its southern borders.These matters escalated the complexity of the Syrian conflict and gave it otherand more dangerous dimensions, so the concerned countries in the region and the world had to change their policies in Syria as per new considerations and different balance of interests, which made the aforementioned parties restart political movements and work hard to find a solution for the Syrian crisis.

In this study we try to shed light on the new political movements of the concerned countries to solve the Syrian crisis and evaluate the chances to succeed in light of changeable and complicated political and field scenes.


First : the Saudi-Russian rapprochement and its role in the Syrian crisis

Lately , Saudi Arabia under the new leadership of king Salman bin Abdulazeez started to go off the track of its ally the United States , the disagreement is clear on two main points, first one is Iran nuclear file and the second is the Syrian crisis file. Voice of Israel radio broadcasted an analysis by middle east editor "Yossi Nesher" saying: "the Saudi-American relations are tense in two main files: first is that Riyadh is against the nuclear agreement with Tehran, the second is on the overthrow of Assad regime , which is opposite to US.hesitant attitude after four years of fight" (4).

This new approach by Saudi Arabia to deal more freely and away from US hegemony, appeared when the new leadership of King Salman Bin Abdulazizdecided to launch the Storm of Resolve against Al-houthi coup in Yemen on president AbdRabbuh Mansur Hadi ,while merely informing its ally, USA, as per the official statement about the operation (5).

This was followed by many events which reinforced this new approach of the new leadership, like restoring and strengthening the relations with Turkey, culminatingwith many visits at the highest levels after a complete discontinuity of relations after coup on Mohammad Morsi in the summer of 2013 , supported by Saudi Arabia under leadership of the late king but totally refused by Turkey then.

The most significant development for Saudi Arabia is the rapprochement with Russia , culminated by a meeting between the Saudi Defense minister “Mohammad bin Salman” and the Russian president Vladimir Putin in June 2015 criticized and analyzed  by the media then.

The Russian expert in Saudi RelationsConstantine Dudayevcommented on this visit : “the Russian-Saudi rapprochement can be seen as economic more than political, both sides still do not agree politically on the Syrian crisis. As it is very well known,Russia supports Bashar Al-Assad and considers hisdeparture destabilizing for the region; while Saudi Arabia considers that he lost the right to run the country when he started an armed struggle against his people” (6).

Actually, six economic agreements resulted from the Saudi visit to Moscow, top agreement among them is in the peaceful use of nuclear energy , and activating the joint military and space  cooperation committee.

Besides, the Russian expert finds that this rapprochement is also due to the fact that the Gulf countries lost their trust in the United States. It is said that the US betrayed their allies ,like Husny Mubarak, while Russia proved to be a trusted ally who do not give up on their friends.

On the other hand, the Israeli analyst "Yossi Nesher" said it is likely that the Saudi defense minister visit to Moscow is to strengthen the military cooperation between the two countries, and get armed with new developed Russian weapons as a warning message to Washington, if they continue distancing themselves from their traditional regional allies

Also, it is likely that the Saudi visit is a challenge to Iran in the middle of high tension between the two countries regarding Yemen, Syria and the nuclear file.

In spite of the economic importance of the visit but it undeniablybroke the iceand reinvigorated the Saudi-Russian relations on political level.This is clear in the invitation of the Russian president for a quadruple alliance against terrorism  including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan and Syria (8).


A Quadruple Alliance against Terrorism

On Monday 29th of June, Moscow announced its wish to gather Damascus and Riyadh in a coalition including Turkey and Jordanagainst ISIS.

Mr. Putin uncovered that Moscow received signs from some of countries in the region, whohavevery good relations with Russia, that they are ready to contribute to facing evil represented by ISIS , and explained that “It is related to Turkey, Jordan and Saudi”.

Although Russians know very well that this invitation has a price which is to complete a political settlement satisfies the invited countries to join the coalition, especially Saudi Arabia who sees in ISIS a danger on their security though still they and other invited countries also will never accept to give up their attitude, refusingthe head of the Syrian regime to remain in power.

The Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange also confirmed there is a secret deal being done between Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to remove the Syrian leadership as stated in leaked Saudi foreign ministry documents published on website(9).

As a result Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister commented on the Russian invitation to a quadruple coalition “it does not mean to neglect other articles mentioned in Geneva Communique announced on June 30th 2012”, in a clear reference to the necessity of a political settlement in Syria, that would surely satisfySaudi Arabia.He knows Saudi Arabia wants a price to approve his proposal, and the price would be specifically in Syria, since Russia supported Saudi Arabia in Yemen (to be explained later) and did not announce their approval to join the coalition.

It can be said that Russia knows exactly that an approach accepted by the countries invited to the coalition to be accomplished so thatthe project succeeds and turns into actual reality, especially because Russia is convinced that defeating ISIS will not happen without an intervention on the groundwhere there is a significant role for the Sunni component in Syria, Iraq and region countries.


  • The Russian-Saudi rapprochement in Yemen

Russia clearly supported the Saudi decision in Yemen when they allowed the security council resolution no. 2216 regarding Yemen whihccame under the chapter VII of the UN Charter, demanded to impose arms embargo on Al-houthies and Ali Abdullah Saleh supporters .It also demanded Al-houthies to withdraw from the cities and towns they controlled including Sanaa.

The Saudi ambassador in Russia AbdulRahman Al-rassi said “there is an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Russia regarding keeping the legitimacy of Yemen government”, asserting that “Russia has an important role to implement the Security Council No 2216 regarding Yemen” (10).

This means that Russia has a different vision to cases that their allies in the same axis like Iran and Syria have,and still they support them.


Second: A change in the Russian perspective and the Iranian initiative:

Despite continuing confirmation by the Russian diplomat on the persistence of their position supporting Damascus (Assad Regime) in all occasions, we can notice apreliminarychange in the Russian attitude. Mark Katzz, professor at George Mason University – US.,said confirming that,if Moscow continues supporting Assad it will lead to weaken the moderate opposition groups which will allow ISIS and Al-Nusra front to gain the power when Al-Assad regime falls.

Katz think that as Al-Assad is going to fall anyway, so it is better for Russia to work with Saudi Arabia to improve chances to form a government by moderate opposition to replace the Al-Assad regime.

This analysis is affirmed by Mr. Adel Aljubeir, Saudi foreign affairs minister: “The crisis in Syria is going to end, either through the political process, which will lead to a peaceful transition of power to have a new Syria without Assad. Or through the military takeover , by defeating Assad (11).

The analyst in Chatham House (The Royal Institute for International Affairs) says that Russia feels frustrated by Assad’s  refusal to open a dialogue with the secular opposition, rising of jihadists threat.

The Financial Times said in a translated article on Arab Egypt website that an Iranian Diplomat accused Russia that they are playing a dual game over Syria “Russia is trying to play on more than one track now, they support the Syrian government and try to influence opposition groups, and getting ready for a future without Assad” he said.

They added, in spite of the importance of the Russian weapon for Syrian government , Russia reduced their existence in Syria and withdrew around one hundred of their military advisors (12).

What confirms this is the latest initiative by the Iranian foreign minister Mr. JawadZarif to solve the crisis in Syria.

The initiative came up with revised four-point plan:the first item calls for an immediate cease fire, the second item calls for forming a national unity government, the third item includes re-amending the constitution reassuring the ethnic and sectarian groups in Syria. While the fourth item calls for elections under supervision of international observers. (13).

The plan can be read in two ways.On the one hand,“Iran felt that Russia started to change their policies towards Syria so they are trying to have their influence in the next stage” especially that one point of the plan is a red line for the Syrian government , appertaining to the changing the constitution (14).

On the other hand, Iran is trying to play a misleading role to mix cards and fail any change in the Russian attitude , which will be discussed later hereon.

One of the signs indicating a change in the Russian attitude towards the crisis in Syria is their constant coordination with UN envoy Mr. Staffan de Mistura and with the national coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces .Two months ago the Russian president’s special envoy to the Middle East Michael Bogdanov met significant members of the coalition in Ankara, both sides described their meetings as productive and the relations are culminated by inviting the coalition to visit Moscow soon (15).


Third: US and Turkey: a political rapprochement towards Syria

Although US has not seriouslyapplied pressure on the Syrian regime, neither politically or militarily, but they repeatedly confirm their position towards the crisis in Syria:  the solution should be political and there will be no role for Assad who lost his legitimacy in the future of Syria , but they are afraid of the alternative , so they are trying to train a moderate opposition as always announce to achieve goals and interests the last of which is removing Assad. (16)

With respect to the Turkish attitude towards Syria. It can be said it is clearly consistent towards what is happening in Syria. The Turkish leadership sees there will be no stability in Syria as long as Assad is head of state They do not hide their support to the military and political opposition against Assad .It is well known that Turkey hosts the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces and before that the Syrian National Council headquarters since establishment after the revolution started in March 2011 (17).

The latest agreement between Turkey and US regarding creating a safe zone free of ISIS and Kurd fighters and what follow this in terms of pragmatic and logistic issues to weaken the three parts: Assad regime, the Kurds, and ISIS.

The agreement as per Turkish and American sources stipulates allowing the Turkish forces to create a safe zone of 40 Km in depth of Syrian lands to prevent ISIS and Kurdish Democratic Union party (PYD) to control along the Turkey-Syrian borders, in return the US who will use the Turkish air bases for bombarding ISIS in the Syrian and Iraqi lands,undertakes not to challenge this step. (18)


Fourth: the Syrian Regime and the Political Confusion Game

The Syrian regime since start of the crisis till today is using the political and media confusion, no need for a proof because it became an axiom, the regime considered itself in a war situation so they use a psychological, media and political war.

The psychological war and confusion rise to maximum when (the state which considers itself in war)they use the political and media confusion to distort some routes and political approaches to different ones.

This is exactly what the Syrian regime and who support them do the past weeks and we will focus here on two main confusing events:

  • Ali Mamlouk, the head of the national security of the regime , visit to Saudi Arabia and meeting the defense minister Mohammad bin Salman. (19)
  • Putin personally summoned the Turkish ambassador in Moscow and said: let your president Erdogan and his terrorists go to hell. (20)

Looking at the first event reflects no change in the Saudi attitudes towards Syrian regime, but as the news leaked the regime used it to say that the governments stand against them are secretly normalizing relations with them , which confuse both the enemy to be baffled and the supporter to hold fast.

The regime media, on the other hand, represented by Al-Akhbar and Al-diyar Lebanese newspapers supporting the regime, reported whatever they like about the visit using the embarrassment of the other side (the Saudis) for no reason.

The regime used this manner many times , for instance they leaked a report about Ali Mamlouk meeting with a French intelligence officer , when the regime president said in an interview with the French media that he refused secret coordination and demanded to be in public.

It simply reassures supporters that his enemies are rushing to him and destabilize the opposition trust in France their main supporter.

The second event, made by the Iranian media machine, was outrageous. The word of the Russian president with the meaning transferred by Tasnim Iranian media agency from the concurrent Russian media which by diplomatic norms means a war announcement against Turkey, thus Russia hurried to deny that on the highest levels.

Maybe the latest Iranian plan is a confusing point around the recent Saudi-Russian talks, if so then Iran is seriously worried of any understanding between Saudi Arabia and Russia regarding its ally Al-Assad, or their plan is actual and they are seriously looking to an understanding with Saudi Arabia as mentioned in different media channels.


Point of Order

The media and the political confusion targeted three countries, Russia , Saudi Arabia, and Turkey at once, these countries had coordination at the highest levels on several issues, most important is the Syrian crisis.

This what we discussed  above regarding the visit of the Saudi defense minister to Moscow and meeting Mr. Putin, which resulted into understanding regarding Yemen first , and may be Syria later, and that worries both Syria and Iran  and explain the media and political confusion on high levels.


Fifth: Intensified Diplomatic Trips

Doha conference gathered officials from main countries (US and Russia) with officials of influential countries of Gulf states , headed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar , where they discussed different issues in the area especially Syrian and Yemeni issues and the Iranian nuclear agreement.

The Doha meeting were preceded by a meeting in Tehran joined foreign affairs ministers of Russia, Iran and Syria where they discussed the same issues.

This was also preceded by a meeting of the Russian and Turkish foreign ministers in Kuala Lumpur.

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the 48 meeting of south East Asia (Asian) and continued for more than 30 minutes.

The common denominator in all these meetings was the Russian attendance, who discussed with all parts the quadruple coalition suggested by Russia to confront danger of “ISIS” and listened to their points of view.

The political orientalist and analyst  KarineGivourgiansaid that the main points made all parts sit and reach an understanding especially Saudi Arabia, US and Russia are : (21)

  • The losses of the Syrian army who is fighting on over sixty fronts.
  • ISIS control over large proportion of the Syrian land versus withdrawal of other armed groups.
  • Kurds progress in the north which can be related to the international situation in:
    1. The Turkish intervention and announcing war against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) under the cover of fighting ISIS
    2. The Iranian nuclear agreement
    3. Washington decision to provide air cover to the trained groups of the Syrian opposition against all dangers including Syrian official army and their supporters.
  • Saudi-Russian rapprochement
  • The burdens of refugees and immigrants

The Lebanese writer and political analyst (George Khoury) wrote that in spite of the declaration of the Turkish president Mr. Rajab TayibArdogan that the Russian president Vladimir Putin is going to abandon Bashar Al-Assad, and no longer has the opinion of supporting Assad till end.Still the talks at Doha did not propose any solution for the crisis in Syria, and did not put basics for a rapprochement can be transfer Mr. Putin initiative to form a quadruple coalition.

He wondered if Mr. Lavrov visit to Qatar which caught special attention by observers, especially that it gathered him with Mr. Kerry, Mr. Adel Al-Jubeir and Mr. Khaled Al-Atiyeh, did not make a difference or a breakthrough in the wall of the Syrian crisis, where Qatar stands on the very opposite side from Russia, particularly Al-Assad .

The writer answer his self “comparing to the announced, the visit did not make any difference except that it was a positive step in the relations between Doha and Moscow. At the beginning of the meeting a journalist asked Mr. Lavrov:

What is Russia going to do in the increasingly complicated crisis of Syria?

Lavrov pointed to Mr. Kerry and Mr. Jubeirand said: I hope they can help.

Kerry added “the effective” (i.e. effective help), which implied that Russia will not get any help to keep Assad in power.

He mentioned that Mr. Lavrov statement in Doha added a knot to the political Solution when he said: “reaching a political compromise in Syria need all parts to be in” implying the Russian suggestion to join Iran to the negotiations that may take place in “Geneva III” conference, propagated by Staffan de Mistura, which Gulf states and Turkey refuse. May be because of that Mr. Kerry made sure to say that Assad is finished and fell down , and added that he is the reason why ISIS and terrorists appeared in Syria.


Evaluation of Success of a political solution in Syria

The latest diplomatic movements convey a close political solution in Syria confirmed by the Russian, Saudi, Qatari, Turkish rapprochement and rising of “ISIS” from one side, and the Russian proposal to fight terrorism and the Iranian initiative from the other side. However the Russian-Iranian attitudes still notidentical to the American, Saudi, and Turkish ones regarding fate of Assad and his role in the next stage. Still there are two points that can be taken into consideration to overcome Assad in the next stage and achieve a political solution which are:

  • Last speech of Bashar al-Assad in front of chiefs and members of popular organizations and profession associations and chambers of industry, trade, agriculture and tourism. Confirm that any political proposal for Syria that would not support in the first place beating terrorism then it is a meaningless proposal and there is no chance to get it through; this is why our priority is to beat terrorism wherever it is in Syria, so no politics, no commerce, no culture, no security, nor morals. (23)

The second point is in case this (defeating terrorism as per Al-Assad) there may be talks about a political compromise, on this point it can be said that Russia may embarrass Assad if they could achieve the coalition against terrorism so get over it in Syria’s future in a diplomatic way.

  • The new Iranian initiative to solve the crisis in Syria and flirting with Saudi Arabia.

The Iranian initiative in its amended copy indicates there is a possibility to solve the crisis in Syria especially after their declaration of readiness to shake hands with Saudi Arabia and open the way for negotiations regarding issues of the area. (24). Especially that Saudi Arabia suggested a proposal close to the Iranian one , as per Al-hayat newspaper, Saudi Arabia connected Al-Assad fate with a political process in Syria, the first condition is withdrawal of Iran, Shiite militias and Hizbullah , then proceeding to the presidential and parliamentary elections under supervision of the UN.



By all means, the political solution looks to be closer than ever, especially that Saudi Arabia who is waving the stick weapon , when Russia and Iran tend to approach and  reach an understanding with Saudi Arabia as mentioned before. So applying both the Iranian and Saudi initiatives supported by US and Russia may lead to solve the Syrian crisis, the price for concerned countries and even the Syrian opposition with its various names and forms , instead of head of Bashar Al-Assad before any political process , it will be his leave after the process.

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