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IT SEEMS the Arabs will never learn lessons from the past, so the same mistakes are repeated in terms of dealing with their problems. This is what anybody who watched the Syrian opposition conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia must have concluded — similar to another opposition conference held in Al-Haskah City, Syria.
This means the kind of unity among the opposition groups today is deemed as division. It shows that the differences five years ago still persist and the scenario was the same when the crisis escalated into a civil war.
The situation is not different from that of Palestinians and Arabs after the United Nations took a decision to divide Palestine in 1948. At the time, the Arabs were divided and the Palestinians behaved the same way. Tens of militant groups raised the slogan, “Liberation from river to the sea”.
However, they were overwhelmed by internal differences and disputes. There were times they served based on the positions taken by Arab countries; and at other times, for the sake of representing the largest percentage of citizens until Palestine was lost to the extent that those factions could not secure even an inch of the land. The Palestinians either flocked to refugee camps in neighboring countries or migrated to other parts of the world.
Also, Lebanon was and still a victim of fights and divisions. It has been standing as a proxy or direct camp for Arabs until the world became fed up with it, such that the factions were dragged to Taif – where an extensive peace agreement was reached. The country is still wobbling under attacks of different factions, including those who collect garbage from the streets. The country does not have an efficient leader, government or parliament.
The same mistake happened repeatedly in Somalia, which has sunk into civil war among tens of militant groups which the Arabs and the West have been supporting since 1990. If the country has become the worst nation in the world, Iraq is equally unlucky with the American invasion. Military leader Paul Bremer deleted its institutions with just a stroke of a pen, especially the military and security systems.
He handed Iran over to the sectarian factions on a plate filled with blood and flesh of innocent victims of massacres and car explosions. Libya has a similar experience as it was transformed into another Somalia in just a blink of an eye. Yet, Arabs are still persistent with the positions taken. Incidents in previous years affirmed that Arabs are unrealistic, at least on issues concerning Syria.
Syrian opposition factions should consider all these facts in order to understand that the road to solving the political problem is only through dialogue with the regime. They should understand that insisting on deposing Bashar Al-Assad as the only solution in Syria is tantamount to the continuation of the war, possibly for another 10 years.
If we asked for the departure of Al-Assad earlier, we now ask for the dismissal of Iran. We do not know what will be the demands of the opposition tomorrow and who among the Arabs support it. In case tens of groups managed to agree on one stance, this is still far from unity. Negotiations in luxurious hotels will not unite those who failed to come together to defend themselves with just one stance.
Syrians should mull over the Tunisian experience and how the latter’s political powers avoided civil war despite the terrorist operations carried out occasionally. Democracy will be deeply rooted and the power of institutions is becoming stronger.
Syrians should know there is no solution under a regime which is still strong and has popular representation except through negotiating with it. Therefore, they should stop their arrogance and look at thousands of displaced Syrians who were either ‘thrown’ into the borders of various countries or eaten up by big fishes in the sea.
In this manner, they might be able to save whatever is left of the country and give up the Iranian revolution considering the Russian existence which favored the good of Syrians. They should realize that whatever are the goals of Russia, it is still far from changing the Arab-Syrian cultural identity that Iran wants to make Persian.
Do not fall into the same trap like your ancestors in Palestine. You must respond to the call of the international community to negotiate politically and stop the war.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times