The Day After will be too late.

September 8th, 2012 | A post by Camille Otrakji

Late August 2012 an international conference was held in Berlin. The objective was to launch and promote an elaborate American project for Syria. “The day after” is based on a long document prepared mostly by the USIP (US Institute for Peace) with various Syrian opposition figures and a number of Europeans.

According to their website:

“Who funds it?
Project activities are funded by the U.S. State Department, the Swiss Foreign Ministry, the Dutch NGO, Hivos, as well as the Norwegian NGO, Noref. The structure of the project and the diversity of funding are intended to ensure Syrian ownership and leadership of the project, and to reinforce the roles of USIP and SWP merely as facilitators.”

Despite all the apparent non intrusiveness, goodness and neutrality that one is supposed to perceive after reading “US Institute for PEACE” and “Swiss” and “Norwegian” … “facilitators“, this appears to be not much more than another cover for another US State department project that aims to advance US interests regardless of the expected high cost that no one wants to talk about.

The USIP’s Steven Heydemann, the “lead facilitator of these efforts” has been a long-time promoter of the inevitability of regime collapse, and a harsh critic of any effort to solve the crisis in Syria through peaceful means. He vilified or ridiculed everyone, from David Ignatius to Kofi Annan, for daring to deviate from Heydemann’s regime-change-is-the-only-option formula.

I got a taste of the lead facilitator’s vigor when I questioned on Facebook his hard line Syria opinions and his total confidence in the imminent regime collapse. Steven angrily accused me of being a “regime sycophant”. Not a very promising attitude for a “lead facilitator”

Quoting again from TDA’s website: “To ensure a successful and orderly process, “The Day After” project convened approximately 45 Syrians — representing the full spectrum of the opposition – to participate in the development of plans designed to facilitate Syria’s democratic transition, should the opposition succeed in bringing about the fall of the current regime. The group includes senior representatives of the Syrian National Council (SNC), the Local Coordination Committees in Syria (LCC), as well as former generals, economists and lawyers, among others, from inside Syria and the diaspora representing all major political trends and components of Syrian society.”

So to ENSURE a successful process all it takes is to work with 45 Syrians who want to topple the regime?

It appears that after 18 months of conflict and bloodshed that led to over 20,000 casualties, the United States and its allies in the international community were only able to learn how to better pretend they are a constructive force. In reality, they still are working exclusively on different tactics that would allow them to defeat a number major segments of the population of Syria in favor of anyone who will help the United States and its allies install a more compliant leadership in Damascus.

People are dying in Syria because there is very little learning taking place. For example, to US State Department “the opposition” and specifically US-friendly opposition (for example: Haytham Manaa’s coordination committee not listed), still equals and gets to represent “all major political trends of Syrian society.” They might include religious minorities, women, or secular and liberal Syrians, but they have to join the regime toppling side to be heard by State Department. The millions of Syrians who refuse to create a power vacuum in their country are reduced to “scared minorities” or “Sunni business elites”. In other words; Regime supporters are those selfish Syrians who have their own needs that contradict the ambitions of “the Syrian People” at large that the always caring and helpful United Sates supports.

Perhaps the main reason the United States had to weave The Day After’s delicate beautiful cover is that previous, more hawkish, plans for regime change in Syria through the use of a security council authorized NATO force like the one proposed by American think tank “The Henry Jackson Society” proved to be difficult to implement or digest by most parties involved.

The democracy loving society, populated with right wing Likud-approved experts and supported by America’s largest defense manufacturers, tried for a while to provide leadership and vision to lead the free world’s efforts to help the Syrian people achieve their freedom. A typical conclusion by the institute’s handbook for intervention in Syria, prepared by Michel Weiss, justifies the cost of intervention by the west as follows: “The Syrian people have amply demonstrated a heroic willingness to risk more bloodshed to secure their freedom and a marked indifference to regime accusations that they are the hirelings of Western “imperialism.” Michael Weiss became a familiar face on international television networks covering the Syria crisis in addition to being part of international expert panels, promoting ideas that would help decision makers feel confident enough that going to war in Syria will not be as costly as they fear. [hear him explain how easy it will be to defeat the Syrian army at this “intelligence 2” debate]

After a few Russian and Chinese vetoes at the UNSC it was clear that another approach to toppling the regime is needed.

So “The Day After” project is all about helping Syrians cope with six critical post-regime-collapse areas: rule of law; security sector reform; transitional justice; economic and social policy reform; constitution making; and election system design. [Download full report here]

If one is to be charitable, one would think of the day after as a potentially useful study by a group of capable individuals that genuinely care about sparing Syria the fate that Iraq suffered due to US decision to remove its regime by force. A more realistic, pessimistic and cynical view would brand it a ploy to attract patriotic opposition and pro regime moderate figures to a regime change project that manages to present itself as an intelligent humanitarian collaborative effort that any Syria lover would be proud to be part of. This makes it easy for many who hesitated so far to commit to regime change without feeling guilty for being now in bed with Syria’s traditional adversaries in “The International Community”. Working on such projects also implies a highly likely future revenue when the regime falls. You can expect consultation fees, reconstruction contracts, or many other potential sources of revenue. This makes many even more committed to regime change as their benefits will be contingent on that possible outcome.

The only small detail they don’t tell us is that regime change will be a very long and destructive process that might easily spill outside Syria’s borders.

Qaddafi’s army consisted of an estimated 10,000 semi committed not very professional loyalists. Syria’s ideological army and special forces are as large as 250,000 committed professional, well-armed members. “The regime’s” backbone is the army. The Day After hopes to attract dozens of respected opposition members, Syrian army generals (preferably from minorities) as well as government and diplomatic corps defectors and in that way, the regime will somehow collapse as the US and friends can squeeze a week’s worth of propaganda coverage for each defector hoping to continuously demoralize the regime and its supporters.

This dream outcome is very unlikely. The Day After will be too late. After a most probable long bloody civil, and perhaps regional, war that might lead to a regime collapse, no one will be able to control Syria. The Swiss, Norwegian and USIP “facilitators” and their full-spectrum Syrian opposition “owners” of the day after report will not pay the price. The Syrian people will.

The content of The Day After report is mostly admirable. But until the United States abandons the option of toppling the regime by force, The Day After is nothing more than a fancy psychological warfare recruitment tool.

It is NOT too late for dialogue. The dialogue option has never been properly explored. The United States encouraged, and fully expected all Arabs to stick, for long decades, to peaceful options in seeking an end to their conflict with an intransigent, often insincere Likud-ledership of Israel. The same United States gave up on dialogue in Syria  after WEEKS, not decades, of the start of the crisis.

Those who do not commit to dialogue as the only way to end the crisis will have blood on their hands. There is much more killing waiting to take place for the next few years if you want to wait for and promote the day after.

Posted by Camille Otrakji

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