A little bird just whispered in my ear that the Syrian Government is in the final stages of securing a Reconciliation plan for East Aleppo. The buses are waiting.
There are a few details to be resolved, but it appears that Syrian national fighters who wish to continue fighting will be bused out of town, and those who wish to lay their arms down will be given amnesty and returned to the civilian population. Civilians will then allowed to leave in safety so that the field will be clear for a final battle with foreigners and those determined to stand to the end.
Apparently there is also a deal on the table in the UN Security Council to rescue the foreign fighters of Al Nusra/Al Qaeda/Fatah Al Sham. I was wondering why the UN would be discussing evacuation of the Al Qaeda terrorists from Aleppo, but as a follow-on to an internal Syrian Reconciliation, it would make a measure of sense. Personally, my first instinct was to hope that the Syrian government and their allies would demand the foreign fighters be expelled from Syria, but the Russians have already signed on. As we have seen with Guantanamo, even when there are strong incentives and assurances involved, there would be little hope of any nation taking in an army of Al Qaeda fighters fresh from the battlefield. So, they are given their choice of destination. At least, that is the UN plan.
Perhaps the UN arrangement to secure foreign (Al Nusra) fighters is slowing down the final settlement. In the past, it would seem that those who didn’t want to fight to the death have found ways to avoid doing so. Formalizing this arrangement for the foreign fighters would seem a risky business, though perhaps necessary in the eye of a global storm, to move forward with the Syrian national reconciliation.
The Syrian government has successfully implemented Reconciliation programs in areas in and around the cities of Homs and Damascus, as well as in a few other locations. Syrian fighters who wished to lay down their arms were restored to the civilian population while those who wish to continue fighting were bused out of the area. Meanwhile, the Syrian government provided various forms of relief to civilians including food, medical care and housing for those whose homes had been destroyed. In most, if not all, of these areas a majority of the civilian population had been held hostage by armed gangs for extended periods of time.
The program works, according to Syrian Minister of Reconciliation, Ali Haidar, because Syrians are tired of war. Most of those who joined anti-government militias did so for reasons other than a commitment to a life or death stand against the government. Some joined, he told us, because they were given a life or death threat – join or die. Some joined because their families had been threatened by the armed gangs who now governed their neighborhood or village. Others joined to become part of the governing force in the neighborhood. Few imagined that the war would still be going on five years later. Some found that their idealism and their trust in the leadership they had adopted had been misplaced. For most, the reasons they began to fight are no longer relevant..
If and when a Syrian Reconciliation agreement is implemented in Aleppo, the people of Aleppo will be able to return to their lives in peace and security as Syrian citizens and begin to rebuild. This has been the case in other communities where Syrian Reconciliation programs have succeeded. The UN plan has a dark side that cannot and will not be ignored. We can only hope that it can be overcome by a persistent drive towards internal reconciliation leading to a united Syria.