Syria: Negotiation, Diplomacy and Dialogue is Needed Instead of Hatred and Confrontation

Fred Dallmayr

Ongoing civil conflict in Syria has already led to disastrous results taking away thousands of human lives and threatening the future of the Arab state. Long-term stability of the whole Middle East Region is at stake. The influence of differently-minded external players has until now only aggravated situation in the divided country, while the end to the Syrian predicament is out of sight.

WPF Executive Committee asked Fred Dallmayr, World Public Forum Co-chairman and Packey J. Dee Professor in the Departments of Philosophy and Political Science at the University of Notre Dame several questions on the situation in Syria.

Q.: What are the most troubling aspects of the Western involvement in the Syrian crisis for regional and global security?

A.: The most troubling aspect of the Western involvement in the Syrian crisis is the one-sidedness. All the pressure has been brought to bear on the Assad government, but none on the insurgents or rebels. The efforts of the UN Special Envoy Kofi Annan to mediate the conflict were not supported and were in effect doomed to failure because of the one-sided support of some Western and also some Islamic governments given to the rebels. A further troubling aspect is that this one-sided support has fueled sectarian-religious conflict by pitting Sunni Muslims against Shia and Alawi Muslims. As a result the conflict has become both a geopolitical and a religious confrontation.

Q.: What could be possible alternatives to the current Western policy of pressure towards Syria and Iran?

A.: The most important alternative to the current Western (and Sunni) policy of pressure is resort to negotiation, diplomacy and dialogue. But this means that all the parties to the conflict must be encouraged to participate. The World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations” strongly supports such dialogue and urges all parties to return to a non-violent political process.

Q.: Taking into account Syria's ongoing predicament and complicated Sunni-Shia relations what should be done to open the way for dialogue in the Middle East Region?

A.: Given the sectarian-religious component of the conflict, religious leaders on all sides should be exhorted to abandon the policy of religious hatred and confrontation and to remember the common bond uniting all Muslims, whether Sunni, Shia or Alawi. This means that mayor political players in the region (like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and Iran) should be encouraged to subordinate geopolitical hostilities to the common religious bond - especially since, on the geopolitical level, Islamic states are in danger of inviting neocolonial or neo-imperialist adventures to the great detriment of their own domestic populations.