Negotiating Peace in Syria: Civil Military Relations in Times of Armed Struggle

Article  •  Publié sur Souria Houria le 23 janvier 2014

In November 2013, the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI) hosted a workshop on civil military relations in times of armed struggle. The workshop examined regime change efforts in Kosovo, South Africa and Syria for lessons learned.  How does building unity during armed struggle occur? What was the approach to negotiations while fighting on the ground continued? How and when were the key demands of the resistance movements addressed and satisfied? When settling for less than basic demands is not envisaged, how can negotiations make any progress? Is decoupling an effective and safe strategy for the negotiators? How much can the international community be relied upon to intervene or simply convene? What are the absolute musts to be prepared beforehand so that the future brings some responses to the aspirations of the people?  In 1990s Kosovo, all three sides (Kosovar Albanians, Serbians and the international community) understood early on that the Albanians could not win the war and that for them the second best thing was to negotiate (preferably with the involvement of the international community). The common goal was independence, but Kosovars gradually came to agree that the independence discussion could be delayed, rather than placing this biggest demand first. This ‘decoupling’ removed the issue of political status (independence or not) from the issue of a democratic political arrangement that could end the fighting. Negotiations with Serbia were preceded by a year of pre-negotiating among Kosovars, who struggled to manage violence between factions. Participation in these pre-negotiations helped make the guerrillas palatable to the international community. In South Africa, the goal of overthrowing the apartheid regime had support from a mass democratic movement that eventually made the country ungovernable. The struggle still required decades of patience, setbacks and renewed effort before the regime chose to negotiate. International solidarity played an important supportive role in the struggle creating pressure, but did 11 November 2013 Istanbul  2 not intervene or convene.

How do these two experiences inform the Syrian conflict and can serve the negotiators going to Geneva?  


  1. 1.    Building Unity during armed struggle

The Syrian opposition has struggled to build a united front that can win international  support and gain strength to overthrow the Assad regime. While shared goals,  strategies and leaders can help improve cooperation between civil and military  groups, these can take a long time to develop. In South Africa, every member of the  African National Congress (ANC) was regarded as members of the armed wing  (though not in practice) but the ANC was built around a central understanding that the  conflict must be won on the basis of a political structure. Most of the leadership of the  ANC was either exiled or imprisoned, creating a vacuum. The principle was  established that the political leadership always remained supreme, and though not always applied perfectly, it was important for allowing the ANC leadership to negotiate the end of the apartheid regime when the political context (which they had helped to construct) allowed for it. The ANC also benefited from the support from, and connection with, a mass democratic movement including trade unions, religious groups, and others. These were generally aligned with the ANC but not controlled by them. This United Democratic Front was what eventually made the country ungovernable for the apartheid regime and forced change. The struggle still required decades of patience, setbacks and renewed effort. The debate is also not always about political vs. military leadership but is also about political factions, some of which may be labelled military and some not. The example of Palestine is instructive. Like the ANC, everyone was supposedly part of armed struggle but not in practice. In 1980, PLO leader Yasser Arafat pushed to ensure that 51% of the representative of the Fatah general conference had to be from military sector, but his goal was about internal politics, rather than about civil-military relations. The Palestinian case also provides an example of how divisions between political and military actors can have a heavy price. The 2000 Palestinian intifada began when men with guns started a fight with Israel with minimal political strategy. It had the effect of eventually marginalizing a whole mass movement (labour, neighbourhood committees, and students) – all of which were powerful in the earlier 1987 intifada. This gave Israel better leverage, provided an opening for new armed groups, led to political chaos for Palestinians and resulted in the marginalization of civil society, forcing a division that remains today.  The Free Syrian Army, according to one participant, claims to have no political ambitions and does not want to run the country, but is not anxious to submit itself to a fractious and uncertain leadership from exiles political groups. The FSA representative indicated that they will not intervene politically and do not want military rule, but the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) has not put itself in a position where it can lead the FSA. Direction of the actual fighting, potentially by an opposition defence minister, civilian or military, remains an area of contention, as civilian leaders remain uncertain of the power balance between themselves and the FSA. Trust will need to be earned on both sides. Improving civil-military relations can be made easier if all (or most) actors can agree on collective goals, a shared strategy and common leadership. Defining shared goals What are the objectives of the armed struggle and how does this define targets for the use of force? It is essential to know the political objective of military action and its connection to any negotiation process. Is the action to force the regime to negotiate or to directly take power? In Kosovo, Kosovars were long united in the goal of independence. This was not sufficient for forging cooperation, as will be discussed below, but it was a start. Similarly, the overthrow of the apartheid regime was a common goal for South Africans. The declared goal of the ANC to create a democratic multi-ethnic society eventually won out over other visions of exclusive black rule among other opposition groups. In Syria, it is a challenge to merge political goals among opposition groups. With a unified political goal, soldiers would be more likely to be unified and willing to take common direction. The FSA representative stated that their objective is the fall of the Assad regime and the trying of its leaders. The FSA has declared no political ambition or strategy but have expressed support for a pluralist democratic state. As the SNC and the exiled civilian opposition also clearly seek Assad’s removal and the creation of a democratic state, building shared goals would not appear to be an impediment to cooperation. Unfortunately, shared goals are necessary, but not sufficient, for inducing good cooperation. Additionally, other opposition groups, while also opposing Assad, do not share in the goal of creating a democratic regime.  Defining a common strategy Oppressive regimes can be removed by various methods: losing a civil war, suffering an internal coup, losing an election that they allowed to happen and expected to win or, more rarely, giving up power through a negotiated process. It remains uncertain what route will be taken in Syria and expectations for success of the armed opposition can greatly impact strategic choices of different opposition groups. In South Africa, the ANC was able to take the lead in defining the broad activities of the opposition. They recognized the immense material capacity of the regime and spent decades building a mass movement to undermine the legitimacy of the regime, internationally and domestically. It was not easy, quick or sure of success. The ANC avoided violence against civilians and were seen as relatively ethical insurgents not just because it reflected their values, but also because they saw the war as a type of armed propaganda. The ANC also struggled with two ideological tendencies: socialism and nationalism. After the ANC was banned in 1960, the decision was to ‘submit or to fight’. They chose to fight, but not indiscriminately. In Kosovo, the agenda that united  4 all Kosovars was the need for international intervention. Kosovo’s political leaders had pushed for this since 1991. Once the guerrilla force emerged, it drove the conflict to transform it into one that required international involvement. In Syria, regime destruction is no longer seen as feasible by some groups. This is not a universally held view, however, and even those who support it appear aware of the impact of the force of arms for pushing the regime – to negotiate or to turn on itself. While some factions will oppose any negotiated process, the FSA has thus indicated tentative support for a political process if the initial demands of the revolution will be satisfied. The main challenge is to get the minimum guarantees from the regime to start work at the Geneva talks. It will be a struggle to construct a dynamic process of concessions on all sides backed by international guarantees. Central leader/authority Leadership plays a key role for any movement. In South Africa (Nelson Mandela) and in Kosovo (Ibrahim Rugova), the opposition movements had leaders who, while very different from each other and far from universally supported, served as clear centres of authority that had their own weight. Mandela was both a charismatic leader and the head of a successful organization that was buttressed by the moral authority of other leaders such as Bishop Tutu. The ANC was also not alone in the struggle with the more African nationalist Pan African Congress (PAC) also playing a role – ‘one settler one bullet’. For the ANC, avoiding civilian targets was a key declaration but not always enforced. The PAC had less control over its forces, which were more likely to attack civilians. The PAC is practically gone today. In Kosovo, there was a split between the established political groups and those who took up arms later. Their separate political agendas could perhaps be as simple as issues of pride and leadership, as much as ideological disagreement. Thus, Rugova had a weaker hand to play than Mandela, with less broad support, but chose to work with other Kosovar partners, keeping him a central touchstone, but with less personal power. For Syria, efforts continue to win support for a central figure or organisation of widely-respected authority.

2. Unity to protect the people – guaranteeing security How is it possible to guarantee the security of citizens during conflict? In Syria, there is a struggle to find an internal solution and there appears to be no external will to help find one. There remains hope that the humanitarian agenda can win international support. In Syria, conflict among opposition groups has made any efforts to protect the population very difficult. Extremist forces in Syria have started to kill FSA leaders and to force the FSA out of some areas. The FSA, for its part, prefers to fight regime forces and has no interest in fighting the Islamists. The FSA representative indicated that they have no relations with the al Qaeda-like groups. There is no cooperation and most of their presence is in areas already liberated by other groups. Only a small portion of fighters are true radicals but their actions are out of proportion to their  5 numbers, something which the West seems willing to accept, from the FSA perspective. Americans have been in Syria and knew that lack of support for the FSA would see al Qaeda-like groups strengthened. Syria has more than 160 local councils working to provide services to the population and handle humanitarian aid but they are subject to the tides of battle, the whims of armed groups and significant disconnection from political leadership elsewhere. One council group in Aleppo discussed their work: They often have no institutional connection with armed groups on the ground, but work through personal relations, coordinating their efforts with the local opposition brigades. From the beginning of the conflict, the council representatives tried to dissociate from various competing political agendas and strived to be apolitical service providers. They were supported by the Syrian National Council, then Coalition, and faced the challenge of dealing with competition from other groups from the start of the process. They initiated working relationships with various military groups on concrete service delivery challenges and got agreement on particular issues.  Some military groups in Syria cooperate well with the local councils while others try to compete with them. Difficulties were worse at the beginning of the conflict but they have been able to address all groups via local media and win space for action on service delivery. In areas of humanitarian aid, the problems are not so bad with armed groups but it remains very difficult to coordinate with international organizations. In terms of institutions, competing police forces were discussed as a real problem for Aleppo as different military groups, sharia court and political groups have created their own police forces. Aleppo also struggles with civil courts and sharia courts run separately with no coordination between them. Military groups go to one or the other court based on their ideological preference. The free police supposed to be working under the SNC are weak and many inhabitants don’t even know it exists. They are more active and more respected in the countryside than in the city of Aleppo. An American-supported plan to support the local police force had some marginal success in providing equipment and salaries but the scale was far too small. The general who leads it is respected and gives the system credibility, but no resources means no success. The Western efforts merely disrupted other processes. In the view of the FSA, representative, local police generally have little strength and no role.  Eventually, Syria will also have to focus on guarantee security of citizens after the main conflict ends. The Kosovo experience suggests that it will be important to develop a post-transition structure for power before the transition takes place. Kosovo experienced a power and security vacuum after liberation while the people with guns ran the show. All security was given to international community by the Rambouillet agreement and subsequent UNSC resolution. Control over hard security was given to NATO, which had up to 50000 soldiers in the country, while soft security went to UN, which took a year to build even basic police presence. Kosovo suffers from this past imbalance to this day.  6 In South Africa, starting in 1987 with the slow political opening to ANC and return of exiles, South Africa experienced not a return to peace, but an increase in violence with more than 15000 killed: more than during the previous 30 years of resistance. This was related to the resistance to transition from various forces, potentially connected with ruling regime. Massacres and provocations were perpetrated in an effort to derail political negotiations. The ANC brought the weight of a mass democratic movement and was able to get everyone around the table to sign a peace accord that set rules of political conduct. Each group was to police their own actors and demonstrations. The existing institutions remained in place, including the security forces, and only later were slowly reformed over multiple years after the transition. There was very limited security sector reform at first. A transitional executive authority, including representatives of the outgoing regime, was created but was not always successful. A common force was formed with members from all various armed groups to manage security during transition but was operationally a failure. The first thing they did was to shoot journalists and they were quickly disbanded, even as the violence of the transitional period continued.

3. Unity to negotiate and to fight One important advantage of forging a good relationship between civil and military leaders is that it opens up the possibility for building a common front for negotiations. In Syria, there is a strong sense that political guidance to military groups on the ground is missing, leading to competition among local groups in a political vacuum. This leaves even pro-SNC fighters frustrated that the political side has not led properly, and leaves them unwilling to submit themselves to decisions taken elsewhere by civilian leaders. Other groups remain completely divorced from the SNC and all who may be connected with it. What role could FSA representatives play in any common negotiating team? Would a civilian minister of defence be able to negotiate tactical defence and control issues as part of negotiations? The SNC is the legal umbrella for discussions and the FSA has coordinated with them to some degree about Geneva, but the FSA seems more willing than the civilian leadership to declare that if a political solution cannot be found, they will continue to do what is needed to win against the regime in battle. What do the examples of Kosovo and South Africa indicate about building trust with allies for a common goal? Decoupling  In the early 1990s, with the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Kosovars began to unite around the idea of independence. The domestic political discussion came to regard demands for anything less as traitorous. This perspective lasted all the way up to the Rambouillet negotiations that eventually ended the 1999 war between Serbia and Kosovo. Representatives of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) initially said that  7 ‘Everybody who signs Rambouillet is a traitor’. Yet Kosovo representatives signed Rambouillet and eventually Kosovo moved on. How? There was no international support for independence in the 1990s. Kosovar leaders called for the world to recognize their independence first, and then they would negotiate the details later. The world rejected this approach so they had to try something else. Eventually Kosovars agreed that the independence discussion could be integrated somewhere else into the process, rather than placing the biggest and most important demand at the front (something that has not happened in Syria). Kosovars tried to have the word ‘referendum’ inserted into the Rambouillet agreement, knowing that Kosovars would vote for independence at the first opportunity. This request was not granted. What they won, however, was a promise that after three years, a decision would be taken on Kosovo’s final status based on the ‘will of the people’. This proved vague enough for Serbia to sign the agreement, and sufficient enough for Kosovars to still win their cherished independence, though at a later date. The key was ‘decoupling’: removing the question of political status from the question of democratic arrangement. Thus, the Rambouillet negotiations went according to the initial terms – that of OSCE inviolability of borders – that was important for Serbia. Only later did negotiations move toward the second and third terms of debate on democracy and human rights that were important for Kosovo. What does the ‘decoupling’ mean in reality for the negotiations framework? For Kosovo, the main issue was independence. In Syria, it is about removing the Assads. For Syria, there appears to be no way that a negotiation will start with Assad stepping down. Decoupling for Syria would mean fashioning a route toward functioning democracy with majority rule and full respect for minority rights. Then, the process can move to creating a safe environment for this process – removing war mechanisms from those who are using them. Decoupling involves allowing Assad’s eventual removal to come as a result of the transition process. If there is no mass movement and civil society in Syria, however, it will be very difficult to win support for the process. The weaker part of consensus, regarding a democratic Syria, remains unclear and less able to win broad support among Syrian groups than the simple issue of removing Assad. Yet it is the issue of removing Assad which will not be accepted in any explicit way for negotiations that may occur with the regime. Decoupling may be necessary (and eventually inevitable) but how will it be possible to convince the military groups that decoupling does not threaten their final desired outcome? How can they be confident that Assad could eventually leave at the end of some process involving the ‘will of the people’ that may be secured during some eventual decouple negotiation?

Pre- Negotiations Kosovo needed a strong negotiating team that was representative of both mainstream politics and of the insurgents of the KLA. Kosovars struggled to do so on their own and were pushed toward at least a pretence of unity by the external situation. The Rambouillet negotiations with Serbia were preceded by a year of pre-negotiating  8 discussions among Kosovars to build a framework for discussion. This involved negotiations on two fronts: with the international community and within the Kosovar community. Having international negotiations as a looming possibility helped the opposition push for the internal process of discussions. Through this work, the Kosovar factions decided internally about guiding principles for future negotiations with the Serbs and the international community but it was not a simple and smooth process either before or after the international intervention. There was significant violence between Kosovar factions and the KLA were branded terrorists by the international community. Their participation in the long process of internal Kosovar pre-negotiations, however, helped make the KLA palatable to the international community.

In South Africa, it took several years to convince everyone to sit at a table for negotiations. Eventually, a critical mass of support was reached which made the negotiations with the regime the only game in town. Intelligence agencies initially played roles as go-betweens and in convincing political leaders of the need for negotiations. In choosing to go ahead with negotiations, Nelson Mandela said that they themselves needed to trust their opponent so that they could give trust in return. This may prove difficult in other situations where giving trust to an enemy will not necessarily make them trustworthy.

Negotiations For Syria, there appears to be disinterest among the fighting forces on either side for the idea of talking to each other. Military pressure is seen as essential by many groups for pushing Assad to negotiate. The FSA representative suggested that it was when the US threatened Assad during the chemical weapons crisis that chunks of the regime began to defect. There have been consultations regarding Geneva talks and outside advisors have told the FSA that not going to Geneva would be a loss. The FSA representative indicated that any Geneva 2 negotiations should be based on the idea of implementing the goals demanded at Geneva 1: the release of political prisoners and the resignation of Assad and other regime figures. If the Geneva process does not respond to these aspirations then it will have no value. It will be important to consider in advance what negotiating partners will be willing to concede in negotiations. In South Africa, there is a perception that justice for parts of the regime was traded away for the sake of stability in the country, something that must be justified both to the population in general and to armed groups, which may have a different perspective of what cost is worth paying for peace. For Syria, which was described as a country where vendettas are common, the possibility that justice could be traded for stability may not lead to reconciliation but to retribution. The Kosovo example showed that once negotiations begin, problems such as deadlock may potentially be worked around with the use of ‘proximity talks’. These would allow the Syrian opposition to talk to international mediators, who then talk to Assad. Trying to push everyone together to meet is not always a good idea.  9 Additionally, talks are seen as working better when they have a clear structure, a pre- approved negotiating framework before showing up at the table, when there is a strong international presence and when there is a possibility to build a secure implementation mechanism. Reliance on goodwill is insufficient. Clear roadmaps are insufficient. The Oslo process failed because of a lack of secure implementation mechanism, but Kosovo received such a mechanism. In all cases, those who feel that they will not benefit from negotiations will be dissenters. In South Africa, efforts were made through the course of the negotiations to make clear to people with economic power that they would not lose everything. In Syria, many who support the regime, but are not part of the regime, may need to be assured of their place in a future Syria.  Fighting In Syria, there is a general perception that the dictatorship will only be ended by force. When the civilian SNC was established, it was seen from inside Syria as having limited experience and weak connections with fighting groups on ground. No formal coordination mechanism was successfully established between civil and military groups so it was often a matter of individual interpersonal relations. With the creation of the current, broader coalition for the SNC, which assigns 15 seats to military groups as appointed by Supreme Military Council, relations have improved. Following the establishment of the first military council in Homs, other provinces developed councils which worked for a while and formed the basis for a functioning Supreme Military Council. The Supreme Military Council, however, initially felt that they faced arrogance and empty claims of legitimacy when they met members of the civilian exiled leadership as led by the SNC and invited the SNC to join them on the ground in Syria. From this initially difficult experience, relations have improved but the discussions are not the same as coordination on the same team. The potential formation of ministries of defence and of the interior in a provisional government may be seen by the FSA as insufficient since the regime controls too much. Any minister of defence, even if chosen with input from the Supreme Military Council would be seen as more political than military. Much work remains to be done.

4. Unity to manage outside actors – intervening or convening Only solid support from regional and international actors can help move toward a resolution of the crisis in Syria. This could be facilitated if Syrian opposition groups were better able to coordinate amongst themselves and to make allies abroad. To date, economic and military support has been provided in varying amounts to different groups within the conflict but a major intervention has not been attempted by any leading power. At the same time, efforts have been made in several fora to convene the parties for negotiations. In Kosovo, The international community both intervened and convened.  10 Inducing the involvement of the international community became part of an explicit strategy. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was unable to liberate the country through force of arms but they instigated a violent Serbian response that was seen and condemned by the international community. All three sides (Kosovar Albanians, Serbians and the international community) understood early that the Albanians could not win the war and that for them the second best thing was to negotiate (preferably with the involvement of the international community). It was also understood that the Serbian side could not win either. A permanent massive police presence or genocide were the only, highly unwelcome, options for Serbia to retain control of Kosovo. The peaceful mainstream political side among the Albanians needed the guerrillas in order to strengthen their position in negotiations. The guerrilla groups needed the international credibility of the mainstream actors. Both armed and civil groups had some level of relations with the international community and were gradually able to build consensus on major issues for handling UN and NATO. The Americans eventually played a key role in developing a negotiation document that all could accept, after being forced to the table through the use of force. The eventual passage of a Chapter 7 UNSC resolution in Kosovo placed both sides under the threat of force, not just the Kosovars. Kosovars were able to demonstrate to the UNSC the international security challenge of the situation (refugees, regional stability). This was made easier by the recent memories of the war in Bosnia.  In South Africa, international solidarity and the global anti-apartheid movement, combined with financial sanctions, played an important supportive role in the struggle against the apartheid regime. There was never any international presence during negotiations, however. The apartheid regime was angry with the international community and the ANC retained anti-Western bias from past support for the apartheid regime. The international community was able to create pressures, but not to intervene or convene. The FSA representative expressed little trust in the international community – there are 122 friends of Syria and two friends of Assad, yet these two somehow seem to be stronger. Even when the Assad regime was in full power, the FSA was able to liberate all of Homs city and felt that if Russia and Iran had not intervened at that point with decisive military support, the regime may have collapsed. Thus, if the SNC cannot bring in sufficient international support, the FSA representative did not see that it has any real contribution to the revolution. Provision of arms has been insufficient. They fight with what they can steal or buy from regime forces. The FSA representative felt that many in the army still loyal to the regime would choose not to protect the regime if there was a NATO intervention. However, they have come to believe that even if Russia removed its veto, the US itself would put a veto as they were more concerned with chemical weapons than with the tens of thousands of dead. The chemical weapons crisis was seen as the best opportunity for a Chapter 7 intervention. Humanitarian problems could also be a chapter 7 issue, as it was for Kosovo, but the FSA representative doesn’t expect international actors to play a positive role for the opposition.   11 5. Unity to plan for the future Areas of Syria are already living outside the writ of the Assad regime and these areas may be expanded. Planning for ‘The Day After’, therefore, cannot start too soon. It is possible to reach agreements about resolving the crisis of the ‘now’ but there is a need to understand what this can mean for the future.  On liberation day, the KLA resumed its struggle for internal control of Kosovo. The lack of a clear agreement for dividing power democratically haunts Kosovo to this day as the remnants of the military groups that fought the 1999 war retain significant power. The integration of militias and armed groups into national armies does not have a great track record around the world (Lebanon, El Salvador, etc.). How will Syria be able to change Alawite domination of army if others don’t want to integrate? The whites in South Africa had a relationship with the security sector not unlike that of the Alawites in Syria. Survival, both real and economic, is central to their resistance to change. Thus, South Africa made no quick attempt at disarmament or demobilizing of existing armed forces. The army was extremely powerful and could not be militarily defeated. At the time of transition there was a worry that dismantling the structures of the military could push those armed forces out of control (as happened years later in Iraq). Eight different armed formations existed in South Africa other than the army, including various homeland defence forces, political party groups and the armed Pan African Congress. These were each initially left under the control of their associated political force while negotiations took place with these political principals. The armed groups were eventually to be integrated into the national army after free elections and all the men with arms knew that they could have a job in the new government. Later on, a very slow demobilization process took place, mostly through attrition. Syria’s security system today has concentric circles of power with the Assad family at the centre, the chiefs of the key security networks in the next circle, followed in importance by the Baath party and finally by the parliament and other state institutions. The various overlapping intelligence agencies and security organizations throughout the military, air force, and state institutions are all convened in presidency. This arrangement has come about under the Assads because Syria had 10 coups and countercoups since independence. The Assads wanted a coup-proof regime and thus ensures that all heads of major institutions are of close family, clan or other reliable ties, largely drawn from the Alawite community. Authority is wielded extra- judicially. Legitimacy is missing.  For Syria, building good security institutions will be essential for stability in the long run, but very tough to start in the context of conflict. What will the reality on the ground leave for future reforms? Syria’s future security arrangements will require that power be transferred to civilians to exercise control over a military sized and used only to defend the country from outside. Authoritarianism must be dropped so that  12 representatives of the people can appoint the most competent people (chosen apolitically) who will control the budgets of the security sector. Cleaning the security sector from sectarianism will be a key challenge. It is an intervening variable, not invented by Assad but used as far back as the early 20th century when the French colonial power treated Alawites and Kurds with different political approaches.  It is easy to demolish old institutions but it will be tough to build new ones, so it is important to begin early in broad discussions for what arrangements are possible. A new security system in Syria will need to be based on the following guidelines: appointing a civilian defence minister who reports to the president or prime minister as commander in chief. In a transitional situation, a retired military leader may be an acceptable defence minister, subject to parliamentary approval. The defence minister and the lead military commanders would report to parliament. A program of re- education would be required to let armed force members know they could possibly be rehabilitated into the new system. Perspectives will differ on who in the security services of the Assad regime will be held responsible for crimes, but after the experiences of de-Baathification in Iraq, there is little appetite to go for complete dissolution of the military. In a new civilian system, the interior ministry could be elevated in hierarchy of power with control over a national civilian police force and work closely with the ministry of justice. The Mukhabarat, or secret police, will need to be dismantled and a new apolitical external intelligence institution created under a civilian minister subject to parliamentary oversight. A separate internal intelligence service would be part of the ministry of interior.  Fulfilling these possibilities for a new security system under a civilian democratic government will not be easy. There will be ideational challenges as leaders attempt to instil a democratic culture within the armed forces. There will be problems with cutting off the involvement of external powers and with managing civil disturbances that may be expected in transition (spoilers, looters, remnants of the old regime, etc.). The difficulty that the opposition has had with accepting a role for regime defectors may thus have long-term consequences. Additionally, Syria will struggle to eradicate violent Islamist groups that have arisen during the war. The challenges of security sector reform will be faced early on in the negotiation process. The political opposition will need to be prepared for confronting them through a principled though pragmatic approach.

source :

date : 11/11/2013 / Istanbul

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