How to Fix the Syrian Mess

Six easy steps to solve the Syria crisis.

Step 1: Agreement on general, reasonable principles such as: 1) Preserving the unity and territorial integrity of Syria; 2) Preserving Syrian state institutions, including the army and the civil service; 3) Engaging all Syrian stakeholders in the political process; 4) Exploring the middle ground through boosting moderates; 5) Ending safe havens for terrorists in Syria; 6) Ending the provision of arms and finances to the violent opposition;7) Ensuring the rights of minorities; 8) Enhancing humanitarian assistances; 9) Working for a power sharing system; and 10) Exploring a practicable formula for peaceful political transition.

Step 2: The formation of a broad-based forum comprised of moderate, non-violent opposition groups and the government.

Step 3: The declaration of a ceasefire to be monitored by international observers.

Step 4: The expansion of badly needed humanitarian assistance.

Step 5: The implementation of the above agreements and steps through the formation of a transitional governing body.

Step 6: UN-organized and supervised free elections.

With ISIS as everybody’s common enemy—ISIS needs to be contained and defeated as effectively and expeditiously as possible—all parties involved should join hands to bring the Syrian mess to an end. This would deal the ISIS a devastating blow.

A wide range of political analysts and pundits, Americans and others, have been pointing to an important missing element in the bigger picture: some sort of U.S.-Iran entente—both of whom are players in the Syrian drama, albeit in their own ways. This could become a reality with the much-anticipated nuclear deal, which, fingers crossed, looks more promising than before.

Political resolve in both capitals should make a mutually-acceptable and reasonable deal a reality: the sooner, the better. Such a positive development, notwithstanding the strenuous efforts of its varied host of ill-wishers, could also help shape a more realistic, more balanced U.S. policy towards the Middle East—which will, by any reckoning, better serve everybody’s long-term interests.    

Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian is a research scholar at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and a former spokesman for Iran’s nuclear negotiators. His latest book, Iran and the United States: An Insider’s view on the Failed Past and the Road to Peace was released in May 2014.

Image: Flickr/Freedom House