Security forces seized three members of Syria’s government-sanctioned opposition shortly after they returned from an official trip to China, Reuters reports:
Five other members of the National Coordination Body (NCB) were reportedly detained by Syrian security agents on Monday. Facing a 18-month-old uprising against his rule, President Bashar al-Assad has tolerated some opposition figures who call for a peaceful transition from a one-party state to democratic governance.
The conflict is approaching “a point of extreme gravity” that could boost extremism across the region, the head of the Syrian National Council said today.
The violence could produce “a catastrophic situation, with more extremism and damages also in neighboring countries,” said Abdel Basset Sayda told reporters following a meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi.
A post-Assad Syria would be “a civil, democratic and pluralist country that will be neutral in terms of religious and ethnic identity”, he added.
The recent unrest in Libya and Egypt demonstrates that “extremist forces can benefit from instability in the wake of political transitions,” writes Zalmay Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Current U.S. policy “risks the worst possible outcome — prolonging the conflict, fomenting sectarian strife, empowering radicals, and collapsing the state institutions that will be needed to stabilize the country after the departure of Assad,” he argues. “It is time to change course.”
Instead, the United States and relevant allied and friendly countries should empower the moderates in the opposition — including through the provision of arms and other lethal assistance…… The United States should then assist in brokering a power-sharing arrangement between these forces that will marginalize extremists and attract the support of all of Syria’s diverse communities.
Washington should use the leverage of its potential assistance to ensure that the opposition sets forth a liberal political program. A danger exists that the collapse of Assad’s government will lead to enduring war among Syria’s communities. The prospect of our help should be used to induce rival groups to coalesce around a moderate platform. We should set forth political benchmarks that the opposition must meet as we prepare to escalate our support.
Washington should attempt to foment a coup against Assad, Khalilzad writes in Foreign Policy:
While not a silver bullet, a coup would not only remove Assad from power but would ensure the preservation of state institutions in the course of a transition. The United States should reach out to those close to, but not part of, the inner circle of the Assad clique and his immediate family. If these elements lead to a coup, the United States could then broker a power-sharing arrangement with the moderates in the opposition.