The new Western tactic to creating an end to violence in Syria is, yet again, centered on ousting President Assad. Britain and the US are ready to offer Assad clemency would he join a UN-sponsored conference on a power transfer.
In the follow-up to the G20 summit, the leading world powers have decided to convene in Geneva to discuss Syria's political future. The move seems to be very much in line with the idea of a proper political dialogue, which has been persistently promoted by Russia.
Besides the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, key players in the region like Turkey and Saudi Arabia are expected to join the talks. Iran, though, Syria’s main ally in the region, did not receive an invitation, despite Russia’s insistence.
Britain and the US, desperate to bring Assad to the negotiation table, are trying to lure him to the conference by offering clemency.
The offer of clemency extends only to Assad and not the opposition representatives who will also join the talks. Though no charges have been brought against him, the president is considered to be the only man responsible for the violence in Syria.
However, should Assad accept the offer, the question remains: Who will fill the power vacuum if he steps down? There are thousands of tons of weapons on the ground in Syria and more than enough factions in the opposition that would like to seize the throne.
The Syrian leader must also consider what would happen to the sizable portion of Syrians who still support him. None of them have been offered the same clemency, and may become targets for brutal reprisal attacks during the carving of a Syrian pie.
Assad still has a lot of legitimacy within Syria, with more than 50 per cent of the population's support, political analyst Roula Talj told RT.
“What is happening in Syria is getting extremely sectarian,” she said. “Massacres are being carried out against Assad’s forces, as well as Christians and Alawites – or indeed any citizen who is in favor of Assad.”
Assad is not likely to give up his power the way the West wants him to, and with so much support, he has a good chance of being reelected during the next presidential elections in 2013, Talj said.
“At that time he will offer an election under international scrutiny to make them as clear and as open as possible,” she said. “And then if he is reelected by the majority, he will stay. If not, he will leave.”
Although Russia strongly supports political dialogue and all efforts to stop the violence in Syria, it maintains that it is up for the Syrian people to decide the future of the country. No one can prejudge for the Syrians what the outcome of the political dialogue would be, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told RT, reiterating President Putin’s statements at the G20 summit.
According to Lavrov, UK PM David Cameron and US President Barack Obama said "President Bashar Al-Assad must go and external players must develop a transition plan for the Syrians to agree” upon. “We expressed our position that we cannot accept a policy which would aim at changing regimes from the outside.”
The only thing the external players clearly must do in this situation is to ensure that all parties, majority and minority, sit down at the negotiating table to discuss their future, Lavrov added.
“Otherwise the groups that now support President Assad – and there are quite a number who do so – would be in the opposition to the ruling majority and the war and violence would continue, but the positions of the participants would be shifted.”