The limits of a Constitutional Committee process for Syria

The limits of a Constitutional Committee process for Syria
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When protests began in Syria in 2011, the Syrian government reacted violently to its citizens, preferring a military solution over any political compromise. At that time, I was in Damascus and I remember very clearly that the Russians tried to facilitate a deal with a number of Syrian opposition leaders in return for ending the demonstrations. This included some constitutional amendments and ministerial portfolios to be filled by opposition representatives until the presidential elections in 2014.


Of course, the opposition rejected the Russian offer because it did not meet its expectations and also because it felt that the offer was a result of the weakness of the Russians. However, I thought that the opposition would not have received any offers from the Syrian government because of its lack of credibility.


Today after nine years, we find that Russia's policy has not changed. It has continued to support the security solutions of the Syrian government and has succeeded in splitting the Syrian opposition movement and the UN political process. It has done this by cleaving off security-related issues from the UN political process to ad hoc regional efforts such as the military focused Astana process. The Astana process has served to strengthen cooperation with Iran and Turkey while also sucking energy from the Geneva political process. In this way, Russia has prevented the internationalization of a political solution and has annexed with its partners Iran and Turkey geographic areas of influence such as Aleppo, Homs, Ghouta and Daraa, through which it has helped to impose military solutions.


The additional Sochi process served as the cherry on top that adorned this security approach and paved the way for the establishment of the Constitutional Committee. Despite the efforts of former UN Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura and the United Nations to prevent interference in the list of names, the sovereignty of the Constitutional Committee could not be protected from interference through Sochi. For example, Turkey intervened to stop any attempts to include representatives of the Self-Administration and interfered with the names of Kurd candidates in both the lists of the Opposition and civil society members.


All this would not have happened without the inaction of the international community. The policies of the Trump administration saw the reclaiming of Ghouta; the occupation of Daraa, and now the slow abandonment of the northeast of Syria. This was exacerbated by the weakness of the United Nations and its mechanisms, and the diminishing influence of the European Union, which became consumed by many internal problems.


The work of the Constitutional Commission has now begun with feigned optimism from the international community. The United States and its allies appear to be convinced of Russian security solutions to conceal their failures and weaknesses and escape their moral responsibilities. But the question remains: Can a constitution address all the human rights violations in light of the continuation of the security state in Syria? Can Syria's political and human rights issues be ignored while trying to negotiate peace? Can warlords bring justice to Syria? Can minorities like the Kurds get their rights?



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