Jordan’s document and its confidential addendum for normalizing ties with Damascus display that the final goal for Arab countries restoring their relationship with the Syrian capital is that foreign forces and fighters exit Syria.
According to the document, which Asharq Al-Awsat reviewed, US and International Coalition forces in northeastern Syria and Al-Tanf military base near borders with Jordan and Iraq would also need to withdraw from the war-torn country.
However, the rolling back of forces will take place according to a “step-by-step” approach that works to “curb Iranian influence in certain parts of Syria and recognizes the legitimate interests of Russia.”
The Jordan-sponsored document, which does not include a timetable, underpins the steps taken by Arab countries towards Damascus.
It covers Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad’s meetings with nine Arab ministers in New York, official Jordanian-Syrian visits, contacts between Arab leaders and President Bashar al-Assad, and Assad’s meeting with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed in Damascus on Tuesday.
Jordan had prepared this plan months ago, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II discussed it with US President Joe Biden, Russian Vladimir Putin, and with Arab and foreign leaders.
The six-page document included a revision of the last decade and the policy of “regime change” in Syria.
It later proposes “a gradual change in the behavior of the Syrian regime” after noting that “regime change” policies had failed in Syria.
In an interview with CNN, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi stated that coexistence with the current situation in Syria is not a good option.
A political solution in accordance with international law is still needed in Syria, and Jordan is in talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for “failing to see an effective strategy for resolving the Syrian conflict,” al-Safadi told CNN.
“11 years have passed since the crisis and no results have been achieved,” added the minister, highlighting that Jordan had suffered gravely because of the Syrian civil war.
Besides drugs and terrorism crossing borders, al-Safadi noted that Jordan is hosting 1.3 million Syrian refugees without global support.
“We have talked with the US about the efforts made to get closer to Syria,” affirmed al-Safadi.
Matching al-Safadi’s statements, the Director of Jordanian General Intelligence, Major General Ahmed Hosni Hatouqi, announced that Jordan was dealing with the Syrian file as a “fait accompli.”
Above all, the document comes to reflect al-Safadi’s statements.
“After 10 years passing since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis, there are no real prospects for its resolution,” reads the document.
While it adds that there is “no comprehensive strategy for a clear political solution in Syria,” the document points out that “narrow approaches” cannot resolve different aspects of the crisis.
“Everyone agrees that there is no military end to the current crisis. Changing the ruling Syrian regime is not an effective goal in and of itself. The stated goal is to find a political solution based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254.”
“However, there is no significant progress on this path. The current situation results in more suffering for the Syrian people and strengthens the positions of the opponents. The current approach to dealing with the crisis has proven a costly failure.”
According to the latest UN data, some 6.7 million Syrians have fled their homes with 6.6 million internally being displaced. At least 13 million Syrians need humanitarian assistance.
While six million Syrian citizens are in extreme need, 12.4 million are suffering from food insecurity, and more than 80% of Syrians are living below the poverty line.
As it stands, 2.5 million children have been cast outside the education system in Syria, in addition to 1.6 million children that are at risk of dropping out of school.
The terrorist organization ISIS has been defeated but not completely eradicated. Its members are trying to rearrange their ranks and are re-emerging in parts of the country from which ISIS has been expelled, such as southwest Syria.
ISIS elements are also working to consolidate their presence in other regions such as southeast Syria. Other terrorist organizations continue to operate in different parts of Syria, taking advantage of safe havens in the country’s northeast.
Iran continues to impose its economic and military influence on the Syrian regime, and on several vital parts of Syria.
Besides exploiting the suffering of the people to recruit militias, Iranian proxies are growing in strength in key areas, especially south of the country. Moreover, smuggling drugs is generating significant income for these groups and poses a growing threat to the region and beyond.
None of the refugees – except a select few - are returning to Syria due to the lack of improvement in the security, economic and political conditions in the country. International funding for refugees, as well as host communities, is diminishing, threatening the infrastructure supporting refugees.
What Should be Done?
The document proposes a new approach that could refocus attention on the political solution in Syria and address the humanitarian crisis and its security impact on the country and the region.
The approach would adopt a series of accumulative steps that would focus on “combating terrorism and containing Iran’s growing influence,” and halt further deterioration that is detrimentalto to our collective interests.
In return, Damascus would be offered incentives that would reflect positively on the Syrian people and allow the return of refugees and the displaced.
According to the document, five steps are required to move forward:
Developing a phased approach to a political solution based on UNSC Resolution 2254
Gathering needed support from like-minded regional and international partners
Seeking to agree on this approach with Russia
Deciding on a mechanism to engage the Syrian regime
Ultimately, the document tables a “step-by-step approach for all partners and allies to encourage positive behavior and leverage collective influence.”
This approach provides incentives to the Syrian regime in exchange for it taking desired measures and implementing required political changes that will directly impact the Syrian people.
The initial focus will be on humanitarian issues with gradual progress towards political matters.
The culmination of the process will lead to the full implementation of Security Council Resolution 2254.