A Yemen-style transition of power would not work in Syria

Khaled Fattah writes: Realising that neither a full-scale military intervention nor Libya-style air strikes are feasible options for Syria, some western politicians are considering a Yemeni-style transition of power in Damascus.

The three main aspects of the Yemeni model were based on granting immunity to the Yemeni leader from persecution, transferring his political power to his deputy, and forming a national consensus government, with half of the ministers from the ruling party. For many reasons, however, such a model would be difficult to implement in today’s explosive and badly traumatised Syrian socio-political arena.

First, from an international relations point of view Yemen is fundamentally different. The roadmap for political transition in Yemen was designed mainly by Saudi Arabia, the powerful giant of the Arabian peninsula, which has a vast network of patronage-based close connections with numerous state and non-state actors inside Yemen. Riyadh has the ability – and every national security reason – to throw its weight behind brokering a peaceful transition of power in Sana’a. The Yemeni political file, basically, is a Saudi security file.

The crisis in Syria, on the other hand, has a far wider international context: it is about strategic alliances with Iran, Russia and China – the growing anti-US hegemony nexus in the post-cold war era. Unlike Yemen’s politically and culturally homogenous neighbourhood of oil-rich gulf monarchies, the Syrian neighbourhood is heterogeneous, with clashing political agendas and interests inside Syria. [Continue reading…]

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