„Assad must first step down“ (?)

The syrian foreign opposition declares Assads departure as a precondition for any dialogue with the syrian government. This attitude of self-imposed negotiative inflexibility is rooted in the fact that very early on in the current syrian conflict major western governments and almost all arab leaders took the uncompromising position that Assad MUST go. This again gave the disunited and unorganized rebel factions inside Syria the wrong or at least premature impression that the libyan scenario would be repeated with NATOs high tech airforce destroying Syrias military and governmental infrastructure and making it easy for rag-tag militias to „liberate“ cities.
After all, why seek a dialogue with Assad when he was supposed to be dragged out of a hole (like Saddam) or a drainage pipe (like Ghaddafi) and lynched, they thought.

The fact that after two years Assad is still alive and in power is evidence that a major part of the syrian society is behind him or at least prefers him to the rebels. Attemps to explain Assads survival by referring to Russian and Iranian help are not convincing. If a) Syrias majority is against Assad and b) the rebels control vast swathes of syrian territory, and c) given that the rebels are supplied with both foreign fighters and weapons from four borders (Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon), there is no way the syrian arab army (SAA) could have not collapsed only because of getting weapons supplies from Iran and Russia. As a matter of fact it is hard to believe that either of these Assad supporters could have managed to supply real heavy weapons (helicopters, fighter jets or even significant number of tanks). If (a) and (b) were true as the syrian opposition and its international backers (and financiers) regularly claim, then at least a million syrian Sunnis must be armed and highly motivated to fight the regime. After all, how often does it happen that both, the rich arab monarchies and the US and the EU support someone?What is really happening, despite the syrian oppositions supporters denying it, is that the SAA is not disintegrating and collapsing. There are no mass defections. Explaining the lack of high profile and mass defections with the often repeated claim that the regime is closely observing (Sunni) officers is ridiculous. On the one hand some experts claim that Assad has only 100.000 soldiers (of which only 50.000 are considered loyal and reliable) and on the other hand these same 50.000 are spending their strained ressources and man power to stop  the other demoralized or otherwise „shaky“ 50.000 from deserting? And yet, the 50.000 are fighting on several fronts across the country against hundreds of FSA „battalions“ that are allegedly embedded in local (Sunni) populations who love them and hate the regime? This is highly unlikely nonsense.

But let´s return to the american, european and gulf-arab calls for Assad to go or to be removed forcefully. Why should Assad do this? What, if really a substantial portion of syrian people either actively want him to stay or as mentioned above consider him the lesser plague than the rebels? One can argue whether Assad has „lost legitimacy“ as european and american politicians repeatedly assert, but in how far have the various previously unknown and foreign based syrian opposition „leaders“ and „interim presidents“ ANY legitimacy at all?
On which basis are Moaz al Khatib or Ghassan Hitto more representative of the syrian people than Assad? Assad may have not won a single democratic election, but have the mentioned gentlemen taken part in any regular elections and received peoples majority vote?

If the western nations are serious regarding a future democratic Syria then noone – including Assad – should be excluded in advance. If they and the arab leaders who themselves were never elected are so sure that the vast majority of Syrians hate and despise Assad and prefer Salafists or the Muslim Brotherhood or any other faction then they should not insist on Assad stepping down prior to any talks.
They could stop arming and uncritically supporting the rebels and pressure them to enter into a truce with the government. Russia, China and even Iran would put pressure on Assads government to observe the truce as well. Then elections should be held under the supervision of international observers within 3-6 months.

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