Can Syria Eventually Achieve a Unity Government?

In 2012, the then international Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi proposed a unity government as a quick response to end the conflict in the war-torn state.  Three years later, rival factions have signed a United Nations backed road-map deal to put an end to the atrocity.  The question now is: can Syria follow suite and achieve a similar result?

The most challenging scenario would be to categorize  legitimate actors from the non terrorist affiliated agents to compose the opposition.  Opposition forces are dispersed predominantly between ISIS, the Syrian Free Army, Syrian rebel militias, Kurdish alliances (Syrian Democratic Force), and the Nusra Front. Amongst these, ISIS and Al Nusra Front are terrorist entities and thus are omitted from peace talks.

Of interest is the SDF’s role in the conflict and its aftermath. The SDF is reportedly supported by the US with an anti-ISIS stance. The Kurds have long be isolated minorities and will command a seat in a unity government for their liberation efforts in Syria.

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution to end the conflict after all 5 permanent members agreed on a protocol to be used in the peace process. Talks are scheduled to commence with the Syrian government  in January and the position of President Assad will be prioritized by the US & Britain.

“I think that is possible that a role that didn’t give him [Assad] control of security apparatus might be acceptable” said Philip Hammond, UK Foreign Secretary, cited by SkyNews.

The International Vienna reconciliation talks for Syria prior to the UNSC draft resolution estimated a 6 month timetable to bring closure to the conflict and establish elections.

The transitional period leading up to the elections will be the most important to Western alliance countries who still advocate for Assad to relinquish power. According to Russian Foreign Minister, Lavrov:

“Only the Syrian people are to decide on their future, including the fate of President Assad – this is an answer, included into the resolution, to attempts to enforce outside will on the Syrians”.

With anti-Assad groups in the potential non-sectarian  government, expect mergers amongst themselves  in attempts to win majority votes in parliament to oust the incumbent.

Interestingly, the reluctance of the draft resolution to mention the role of Assad in the peace talks left others to brazenly request that he be omitted.

Ultimately, Syria can achieve a unity government but will be dependent on concessions and comprises of both the opposition groups and government representative. Assad should agree with the talks should he want transparency into his regime as the victims of the civil conflict. If the opposition is merely a minority opposing the government then his regime should be confident in the eventual general elections.

However, to avoid multiple delays in the process, like Libya, the international jihadist groups of ISIS and Al Nursa, have to be completely defeated.


Michael Harrison
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