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Syrian Baath party conference to look at multiparty solution
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The leadership of the Syrian Baath Party is set to hold a general conference next month, sources have told The Daily Star. During the conference, critical decisions will be made regarding a transformation from the single-party system that has characterized Syria since former president Hafez Assad came to power, to a multiparty system of pluralism and diversity, which will include the participation of all groups in Syria in the composition of a future authority.

This step, which will be supervised by President Bashar Assad, constitutes one of the last attempts to save the Syrian situation, which is now characterized by political paralysis and security chaos. Assad’s regime is grappling with a popular uprising that is nearing its 10th month, and Arab League peace monitors are currently in Syria to check on the government’s pledge to end violence against protesters.

A report issued by a diplomatic agency indicates that Assad’s options are limited. First of all, a clash with Israel is off the table because it will be too costly, rejected by Syria’s Russian ally and could increase the Syrian people’s vengeance against him. His slogans about resistance and nationalism will no longer be accepted by the Syrian public.

The second option is civil war. In this scenario, the balance of power would likely fall in Assad’s favor because he has the necessary weapons to squash opponents and force a surrender, unless they receive military support from Turkey and Western states.

This leaves the third and final option, in which the regime accepts a political solution which entails Assad taking political asylum in Russia and a comfortable stay on the Black Sea.

Russian-Syrian relations have long been close because of the historical friendship between Russia and the Assad family. It was this relationship that helped the Russians establish a naval base in Tartus, and place the territory east of the Mediterranean under its influence.

Russia has advised Assad to submit to the demands of his people and start comprehensive reform. It fears a naval loss to NATO forces which would force Russia to take its fleet out of the Mediterranean.

The possibility of a war with Israel is becoming slimmer at a time when Syria’s alliance with Iran is losing momentum, and Iran is reconsidering its positions. Iran is subject to U.S. pressure – the U.S. wants it to abandon its nuclear program, which it sees as a bid to expand the country’s power in the Middle East.

Because of all this, Hezbollah is closely observing the developments in Syria and considers Russia’s cornering of the Syrian regime as the prelude to a reshuffling of the regional cards and a possible turning of the tables against Hezbollah.

Sources say that several days ago, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah inspected Hezbollah’s armed forces and discussed with them the possibility of a war with Israel without the help of Syria and Iran. Nasrallah requested that his forces be prepared in the event that the situation in Syria deteriorates and the party loses the support of the Syrian regime.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 09, 2012, on page 2.
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