The Riyadh Conference and the Search for Assad's Replacement

14 December 2015

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

This is the first serious attempt to shape the future of Syria, and it is the first conference for the Syrian opposition held with international and official backing. It comes as a result of the recent Vienna conference and its sponsors which includes the Russians. Representatives of different groups will meet in Riyadh. These include civilian, military, Sunni, Alawi, Druze and Christian groups. Of course, the most important players like ISIS and the al-Nusra Front will not attend.

What is required from the participants is agreement in order to begin the formation of a transitional government within 6 months so that it can run the country for a year and a half and then hold elections after that. The Riyadh conference is the first step to convince the opposition of a plan to reach a peaceful solution which is supposed to bring Bashar al-Assad's authority to an end and to mobilise international support for militarily clearing the country of Iranian militia and ISIS and the rest of the terrorist organisations. Despite the aim of the conference appearing to be fictitious and the mission impossible, the opposition must think carefully.

Not all the participants of the Riyadh conference belong to the real opposition of the regime. Rather, we see individuals calling themselves the ''independent opposition'' on the list, and we know that some of them are affiliated with Iran and Assad's regime. The ''flexibility'' shown in the list of invitees, including figures linked to Iran, may suggest that this is one of the requirements that the recent Vienna conference stipulated, along with Saudi Arabia being asked to organise the opposition conference. I expect that team Iran will play the role of a Trojan horse at the Riyadh meeting to ruin the hoped for agreement by prolonging the controversy and sabotaging the conference.

We have noticed that Iran was keen not to say ''no'' to the idea of a government replacing Assad at the Vienna conference even though this idea meant that Assad would not be removed but would have his power reduced in a system similar to the one in Iraq where the president of the republic has very limited powers as opposed to the prime minister and parliament who have more powers.

Al Rashed is the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a US post-graduate degree in mass communications. He has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai. 



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