Washington DC – August 22, 2009 (Farid Ghadry Opinion) — There is a prevalent view promoted by Western Syrian experts running along this line of thinking: The terror of Assad can be negotiated with if the right compromises are made but the terror of al-Qaeda is unyielding.

In a way this is true but like any novel by Emile Zola, the end matters. The motivational Zig Ziglar once said: “Every choice you make has an end result.” The choices of Assad or al-Qaeda yield either one of the same end result.

This logic is based on some faulty assumptions that the alternative to Assad is al-Qaeda. An assumption that the Assad regime has gone through extraordinary hoops to make it stick.

Take for example what an al-Qaeda affiliated website published recently and analyzed by the Jamestown Foundation in an article called “Jihadis Turn their Eyes to Syria as a Post-Iraq Theater of Operations“.

On the surface, this article has airtight logic because extremists Sunnis are providing an anti-extremist Shia crescent solution intended to break the Iranian chain of operations extending to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Reality is that a Sunni-ruled Syria could have a deep impact on the region and could reverse the tide in favor of the non-resistance countries.

So al-Madi’s article gives pose to all those who believe Syria can become a moderate country in an after-Assad era and provides further ammunitions to all those who cling to the claim that negotiating with Assad is far less hazardous than the risk of watching al-Qaeda install a Caliphate in Damascus and open several fronts of terror starting with the Golan Heights against Israel.

But what has not been given a thought at all are the back channels influences the Assad regime exerts behind the scenes for such articles to appear.

It is no longer enough for Assad to make the claims that his alternative is far more extremist and far less malleable than his regime is. His tentacles of influence peddling are far more potent. If he can invent Sunni-based terrorist organizations inside Syria (Al-Qaqa comes to mind), his regime can certainly influence the extremists to write such prose intended to deceive the west.

This possibility usually escapes the brightest of minds. We are playing Checkers and Assad is playing Chess. The Jamestown Foundation analysis is necessary to expose the information but is lacking when it comes to this particular option dealing with the deception of Assad on the basis of some very formidable and incontestable past operational intelligence.

Having said that, it would be rather naive of us to conclude that al-Qaeda could not or would not fill the vacuum left by an Assad regime in tatters should the West help to expedite the demise of the Ba’athist government in Syria; however unlikely this scenario may appear to Syrians involved in the details of their country’s political direction, this option is certainly plausible.

But it is also naive of us to simply assume that al-Qaeda is behind this article with Assad’s propaganda machine having no credit whatsoever for its publication. We should be smarter than that.

In our modest opinion, what is plausible is the opposite.

A moderate Syrian government based on past structures (preceding the Assad era) and similar in every way to the moderate governments of Jordan or Morocco. Because of that possibility, it is incumbent upon Syrians with the help of the economic powers of the West to fashion a process whereby such possibility is explored in light of the benefits to such an outcome.

To assume that it is either Assad or al-Qaeda is to throw-in the towel. Neither provide Syria or Syrians with a future and certainly none is an option that could be trusted whether Israeli peace with Assad is achieved or the just war against al-Qaeda continues.

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