For the first time, British Prime Minister David Cameron very clearly said that he is for a safe exit for Assad if it stops bloodshed and allows transfer of power. The fate of Assad will not be his decision alone as the noose is tightening around him and his choices are narrowing — either die in his palace or flee abroad.
Syrian President Bashar Assad’s urgency to respond to David Cameron was obvious. Cameron’s statement worried Assad and raised a lot of speculation that there was a conspiracy being hatched behind closed doors to resolve the matter with a political decision, which grants Assad an exile abroad without trial. This is what we gather from the phrase “safe exit.”
Cameron traveled between the capitals of the region at a time when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was also present in the region. Lavrov had met for the first time Riyadh Hijaab, a leading Syrian figure in the opposition who lives in exile in the Jordanian capital. Hijaab was the prime minister in Assad’s government and defected a few weeks after his appointment.
There is no doubt that Assad knows that the Russians are talking behind his back for a solution, which includes his exit after failing to strike a reconciliation deal between the regime and the opposition.
A source confirms that the Russians are talking about details of Assad’s smooth exit or forced exile, but the Russian proposal is still not practical in many respects in terms of the management of the country after the exit of Syria’s butcher.
I believe that Assad has heard something of this whispering and knows that Cameron did not make his statement haphazardly; especially since he pointed out that he does not wish the Syrian president to remain unaccountable for his crimes. This suggests that it was included in the discussion and a proposed condition to Assad’s exile.
The Russians also propose creating small states in western Syria and Israelis support this option. Interestingly, after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Israeli President Shimon Peres said that he is against any foreign intervention in Syria. His stance clearly means that he is against the proposed Western intervention, and that he preferred an “Arab” solution that has already been put forward by the Arab League which calls for Arab forces’ intervention in Syria.
Of course, Peres knows that Arab troops will be weak and not be able to topple the regime rather their intervention will make the crisis worse. The conflict will further expand in the region and become an all-Arab war with the region drawn in battles thus distracting Arabs from the Palestinian cause for another 20 years.
The foreign intervention, especially under the UN flag, will be able to resolve the great battle quickly by removing Assad and ensuring the legitimacy of an alternative Syrian regime in absence of which there will be problems like presence of Assad militias as well as al-Qaeda elements.
We are now in a new phase of the conflict, close to Assad’s exit, but the accompanying dangers will not be easy to deal with. Assad’s exit without trial is a problem for all, and exiling him then chopping up Syria into small states is totally unacceptable.