One cannot expect miracles from the Friends of Syria conference in Rome. Any move toward settling the Syrian crisis (within months, which might stretch out to a third year, so that the possibility of deciding the conflict does not seem overly optimistic) requires one of two things:
1-It must end with a unified interpretation of the Task Force for Syria resolution, issued by the Friends of Syria conference on 30 June of last year, with regard to the formation of a transitional government enjoying full powers. Moscow must not engage in diplomatic maneuvers over whether this means that Syrian President Bashar Assad remains in his post or not. Any agreement must lead to the abandoning by Moscow, and with it Beijing, of their use of a veto against any international resolution that involves pressure on the Syria regime to remove Russian support for it. This would be in order to implement a plan for a political solution whose practical steps are being drawn up at the Rome conference.
2-Washington must abandon its hesitant and malevolent policy toward the situation in Syria and be decisive. At the least, it should allow countries to provide the Syrian opposition with qualitative weapons, if they desire, to confront the qualitative Russian- and non-Russian weapons that are used in large-scale wars, between countries. These weapons are being used by the Syrian regime against neighborhoods and alleyways in Homs, Aleppo, Damascus and its countryside. They include Scud missiles, which, if they were obtained by the opposition, would help the rebels cement their control over areas where they currently prevail.
Otherwise, the Rome conference will become a mere event that will be followed by another such event, in a month's time, as part of the process of prolonging the Syrian crisis, which has become an area of struggle regionally and internationally. The Friends of Syria become "donor states" whose mission becomes of dealing with the humanitarian situation that has resulted from the continued and bloodier violence, meeting under "human rights and refugee" auspices to make promises of support for more than 1 million displaced people, while the economic crises these countries are experiencing prevent the fulfillment of these promises. Meanwhile, the massacres of Syrians by the regime's paramilitary "shabbiha" will continue every day.
Moscow's excuse for rejecting the issuing of a Security Council resolution has been the need to stop the flow of weapons to the opposition, as a means of pressuring it to accept dialogue with the regime in order to arrive at a political solution. When Washington responded, and forced other countries to decline providing the arms, which had been promised last summer, the US and western states received nothing in return from Moscow, except comments that Russia was not concerned with Assad and whether or not he remained in power; Russia said it was concerned with the future of Syria. This determination was not translated into practical moves; Russia ran away from this and in the direction of echoing Washington's warnings about the rise of the influence of extremist Muslim groups close to al-Qaida, such as Jabhat al-Nusra. Both countries were competing with each other in issuing these warnings, each for its own reason. Moscow was justifying its continued support for the regime, which has been struck by the Islamists, whose strength has grown, while the regime has relied on massacres and Scud missiles. Washington has done so in order to cover its policy of retreat in the Middle East, see the hemorrhaging of Syria and Iran, and attract extremists to Syria so that they are killed, and are weakened. However, these extremists grew in strength and expanded their presence, competing with the moderates and worrying America's ally, Israel. The American announcement of increasing humanitarian, non-lethal assistance, and the amount ($60 million), to the opposition at the Rome conference is an attempt to correct the situation of support for the Syrian opposition National Coalition. But the assistance will not be enough to settle matters on the ground, and force Assad to step down. The most it can do is improve the situation of the opposition in its running battles, as we await the ripening of the conditions for a solution.
At Rome (and before it) the language of "political solution" is prevalent. The Assad regime tries to abort such rhetoric because this is its nature, and the smell of blood and corpses, massacres, scenes of destruction are rising. But the western-Russian understanding does not give priority to the question of Iran's stance. During the negotiations over its nuclear program with the 5+1 group, which convened in Kazakhstan a few days ago, Tehran suggested that the situation in Syria and Bahrain be part of the talks, which was rejected by western states.
Tehran has its fighters on the ground in Syria, in cooperation with Hezbollah. Through them, Iran is trying to help the Syrian regime continue, and enjoy superiority. Can a political solution succeed without the Islamic Republic? Is the political solution that Iran will accept the same as the one being sought by the Friends of Syria?
Rome from above is not the same as Syria from below.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily represent or reflect the editorial policy of Arabstoday.