Writing in Monday’s The New York Times (“A Plan to End the Syrian Crisis”), former President Jimmy Carter asserted before unveiling his mega-delusional Syrian peace plan that, “The Assad family [Hafez and Bashir] had ruled the country since 1970, and was very proud of [the]… harmony among [Arabs, Kurds, Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians who were Christians, Jews, Sunnis, Alawites and Shi’ites].
Mr. Carter also noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin had advised him that “the only real chance of ending the [Syrian] conflict was for the United States and Russia to be joined by Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia in preparing a comprehensive peace proposal.”
The 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner additionally exulted at Iran’s jejune four-point peace sequence consisting of a cease-fire, the formation of a unity government, constitutional reforms and elections.
Mr. Carter finally lectured that Syria’s continuing mayhem comes not from combatants shooting, bombing, and beheading one another, but from the unwillingness of peace-loving nations to cooperate.
Little cerebral exertion is needed to expose these lunacies.
The Assad family has ruled with an iron fist since Hafez seized power in 1970 and appointed himself President in the manner of Napoleon’s self-coronation. Alawites were placed at the commanding heights of authority, and the remainder of the diverse population was politically subjugated. Hafez slaughtered 20,000-40,000 Muslims in suppressing the 1982 Hama uprising. He arranged for his son Bashir to succeed to the presidency upon his death in 2000.
Then-President Carter listed Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1979 — a pariah status that continues today. And his State Department issued human rights reports critical of the Assad regime, including Its common use of torture.
In sum, the former President’s insinuation of a natural political harmony among Syria’s diverse religious, national, racial, and ethnic groups that can be peaceably accommodated within borders arbitrarily drawn in Paris a century ago is preposterous.
Moreover, Mr. Putin is the last person Mr. Carter should have consulted about a peace plan for Syria. The only power he respects or employs is the threat or use of force. Think of Chechnya, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Transnistria, Ukraine (including Crimea), and Syria itself. Mr. Putin has never brokered peace by democratic consensus anywhere in the world, and has no incentive to do so. Self-government provides an example to the Russian people that could undermine his dictatorship. Ditto for the despots the rule Iran (which is also listed by the United States as a state sponsor of terrorism) and Saudi Arabia, which Putin identified as key to peace in Syria. Additionally, all three tyrannical regimes would be clueless about negotiating a constitutional dispensation that protects Syria’s heterogeneous political factions through federalism, checks and balances, the rule of law, and protection of individual rights. Their intellectual universe does not extend beyond absolute power.
Mr. Carter absurdly maintained that President Assad’s would be willing to make concessions to his enemies if entreated by Russia and Iran. Their influence, he argues, previously prompted Assad to destroy his inventory of chemical weapons and facilities. But the destruction was meaningless. It did nothing to diminish Assad’s chronic atrocities through barrel bombs, chlorine gas, or otherwise. He surrendered a redundant weapon in exchange for President Barack Obama agreeing to refrain from launching an attack.
Mr. Carter fails to grasp that in the realm of politics self-interest defeats all rival motivations all of the time.
Syrian convulsions will end only with partition and population exchanges that would establish a threshold of religious, ethnic, national, or other homogeneity within the new boundaries necessary for citizens safely to rely more on law than on guns.
That is the plan the Carter Center should be advocating.