The security situation in the Middle East is in flux. Since 2011, the region has been undergoing a major historical transformation. Reaching the culmination of this transition will take much more time, according to Randa Slim, Director of the Track II Dialogues initiative at the Washington-based Middle East Institute and a non-resident fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced and International Studies (SAIS) Foreign Policy Institute, who was interviewed by valdaiclub.com on the sidelines of the Valdai Club Middle East Conference.
The war in Syria, when it started, constituted an apex in the evolving security and political dynamics of this historical transformation.
It is better not to talk about bringing the war to an end in Syria. It is not about the war, but how the war ends, and also how the war ends in Yemen, and how the war ends in Libya. These wars are not just about the conflict between the government and the opposition, be it armed or political. All of these wars started when the citizens demanded that the old social contract that existed throughout the Middle East no longer worked for them and should be negotiated.
All of these wars that we have seen in Syria, Libya, and Yemen, and earlier in Iraq, are somehow about a violent re-negotiation of this new social contract. Iraq today has somehow reached a moment, where most of its citizens seem to be OK with the political order. They seem to be OK with how it is constituted.
I do not think that the old regime in Syria has won. The question is: what is the share of citizens who remain politically unsettled. There is no space for political participation. The same thing is true in Libya, the same exists in Yemen. Iraq can provide us with a model of how these things can evolve in the future.
That is why I always look at Iraq as a positive scenario, going forward. It took a lot of blood and lives for Iraq to be where it is, but at least for Arab countries that have been hit by internal strife and civil war, Iraq offers a perspective on how it all works, providing a model for others.
However, it requires a government that is willing to negotiate with all the components of society. I find this lacking in Syria. What we have in Syria today is a government which sees the opposition and the people who rose up against it in 2011 as terrorists. It can hardly be considered a plan for long-term stability.