Syria: Grand Compromise or Total War?

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People use buckets to try and extinguish a fire that ignited at a local fuel station in the Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood of Syria northern city of Aleppo on October 20, 2013. (Photo: AFP - Karam al-Masri)

By: Ibrahim al-Amin

Published Monday, October 21, 2013

The region is approaching the last round of confrontation before the warring parties enter into negotiations. In the coming months, each side will up the ante, hoping to score the greatest possible gains before the big players decide to begin their talks.

During the first 18 months of the Syrian crisis, the West and its local allies succeeded in besieging the regime in Damascus, forcing it to concede large swathes of territory to the opposition and fight a defensive war. But when the fighters came close to the heart of the capital, the decision was made by Syria’s allies to enter the fray.

With cover from Iran and Russia, Hezbollah threw its weight behind the Bashar al-Assad regime and prevented its downfall. And within a year, the Lebanese Resistance helped the Syrian government revise its military strategy, tipping the balance on a number of fronts in favor of Damascus.

The response to Hezbollah’s intervention took many forms until it reached the threat of direct foreign intervention on the part of the United States. The intent was to reverse the regime’s recent gains and to strike a fatal blow that would lead to Assad’s fall. But many things prevented this scenario from playing out, so what about the alternative?

Compromise is the only logical alternative to war, but any resolution is likely to be regional this time. After all, it was the West, and particularly Washington, which played a major role in tying all the files in region – including the Arab-Israeli struggle – to the outcome of the Syrian crisis.

That the settlement will be comprehensive, however, does not mean that all the region’s outstanding problems will be resolved together as one package, but it will nevertheless create a different political environment that is favorable to compromise, whereby those who were slated to be toppled, but managed to survive, will have a stronger presence.

There will undoubtedly be many obstacles along the path to this kind of regional settlement, with powerful forces like the ruling Saud family doing all they can to prevent such an outcome. Riyadh doesn’t really have much of a strategy to achieve its ends, believing that money can get them whatever they want.

But, what about Syria? Will the bloodletting end anytime soon?

The road to any kind of resolution in Syria is still long and bloody in many respects, for the fighting will continue even as the negotiations begin. No force, either regionally or internationally, can safeguard a settlement inside the country – only a reconciliation between the warring sides can produce any lasting peace.

The problem is that the Syrian conflict has long ago ceased to be a purely national one, and therefore any sovereign decision to solve the matter internally is next to impossible. And so for yet another decade at least, Syria will remain the focus of attention for the region and the world, before the Syrian people are able to take matters into their own hands.

Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


Washington is engaging all these issues at once because it wants to pull back from the Middle East and soon. The US is tired of Israeli outbursts and Saudi destabilization.

Washington spent huge amounts of "goodwill" establishing and maintaining the sanctions on Iran. Washington spent huge amounts of "goodwill" shielding the crimes of Israel and the KSA.

The most likely scenario in Syria is unfortunately more of the same for some time to come. Obama and Erdogan condemned Assad early and often and will have trouble retracing those steps.

"only a reconciliation between the warring sides can produce any lasting peace." The trouble is Qaeda is not going to reconcile and Bandar doesn't sound like he will pull KSA support anytime soon.

I`m sorry, but the phrase of "total war", which Bashar al-Assad once, and shurely rhetorically bad guided, put, was so wrong as in totality of response (between right and protection) the syrian state and he himself as a politician (and not as a dictator) might play necessarily an important role for stability in the region.
Carl Schmitts irrational strategy of "total war", with it´s historic german nazi-'originality' - and that is: "total enemy - total war - total state", what includes the total loss of any rationality, is not a rhetoric safeguard to syria but (totally) misleading our reflecting minds.
I can understand that you, like we all and the region itself, politicians or not, are paralyzed of the monstrosity in western neo-imperial threat since 1990, beginning with the Irakian Humanitarian Genocide until 2003, the US-NATO-war after this etc., and which still not has come to an end. It`s true: there is no righteous peace in sight, and hezbollah as well as a rationality of the syrian state will have to stay their ground. But not in basic instincts, in war technology and (military) bombing ... history comes to itself in the weight of its opposite, and the west will have to realize that its end is the seed of its own extension. a new east, what does this mean? a new relational reality or the eclipse of the sun in the west?

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