Syria’s main opposition negotiating group would reject any deal struck by Russia and the United States on Syria’s fate that was very different from its own proposed transition plan, the group’s general coordinator Riyad Hijab said on Wednesday, Reuters reports:
The High Negotiations Committee, which is backed by Saudi Arabia and Western powers and has been involved in stalled U.N.-mediated peace talks, was presenting its road map to a new political settlement for Syria in London.
The proposed process would start with six months of negotiations to set up a transitional administration made up of figures from the opposition, the government and civil society. It would require President Bashar al-Assad to leave office at the end of those six months. The transitional body would then run the country for 18 months, after which there would be elections.
The proposal unveiled by the Syrian opposition on Wednesday calls for a six-month negotiation between the opposition and the government, followed by an 18-month period to set up a transitional government with full executive powers to write a new constitution and the departure of Mr. Assad and his “clique,” The Wall Street Journal adds. The third and final stage involves implementation of the constitution with local, legislative, and presidential elections.
“It long used to be said that Syria was impossible because it represented a choice between two evils: Assad or Isis,” writes Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian. “But the coalition of opposition groups assembled today in London, just like the forces who freed Manbij, demonstrate that there is another way. The [High Negotiating Committee]’s blueprint for a pluralist, democratic Syrian future may look like a fantasy now, but it does put the lie to the notion that the country’s only options are jihadist brutality or murderous Ba’athism.”
In a new paper, the Middle East Institute’s Charles Lister reveals previously unreported details surrounding Jabhat al-Nusra’s (JaN) rebranding into Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), including the process that led to it and some of its undisclosed consequences. In The Dawn of Mass Jihad: Success in Syria Fuels al-Qa’ida’s Evolution, he argues that the opportunities provided by the jihad in Syria have given Al-Qaeda the space to qualitatively evolve their operating strategy towards one with an overwhelmingly localist focus, while simultaneously allowing Al-Qaeda’s central leadership to revitalize itself within Syrian territory.
Taken together, JFS’ methodical adaptations in Syria should be seen as a harbinger of a new era of more broadly-supported, more sustainable and, thus, much more dangerous jihadist militancy, Lister suggests:
In short, due to the very nature of JFS’ long-game approach and its extensive roots and interdependent relationship with Syria’s ‘revolution,’ combating it must necessarily be about far more than mere kinetic counterterrorism actions. JFS will never be destroyed altogether, but rather its largest structures can be degraded and its most extreme elements isolated through the two policy facets described above. If the unique nature of JFS’ long-game strategy and presence in Syria is not fully acknowledged and should orthodox counterterrorism measures be brought against it by external powers in isolation from other measures, JFS will only reap the benefit.