If the suggestion I offer in this post fails, little damage is done. If it succeeds…judge for yourself.
Many people and soldiers shift sides in Syria but how many defect TO the regime? None. Who chooses the opposition instead? Everyone. From that phenomenon alone top officials of the Assad regime can make private conclusions as to their long-run survival chances. So why aren’t they heading for the exits? Perhaps because they need the right incentive and space to talk it over.
MOTIVATING DEPARTURE: One problem is that regime officials are so busy handling protests they have virtually no time to mull over the implications of Khaddafi’s fall. Secondly, to express honestly one’s private thoughts regarding the regimes chances (i.e., defeatism) is risky. Finally, to watch or read accounts of what happened to your political twins more than a thousand miles away simply isn’t visceral enough.
Suppose Syria’s leaders had an opportunity to hear what defeat is REALLY like for the men at the top when the ship goes down. You can’t do better getting a dramatic, first hand and in person account from someone who has been through it. Provide a few days for discussion afterwards. Throw in a one-time only, limited offer of freedom of safe exit. Make clear that the exit offer expires permanently once the “yes” or “no” deadline passes.
LIBYA’S ROLE: Understandably many Libyans would like to see Saif dead, as is likely should he stand trial at home. In return for trial before the World Court, I think Saif would accept two conditions: First, provide access to billions of stolen Libyan dollars abroad in his head. and 2. Agree to go to Damascus (under guard) to meet with Syrian officials. Saif would be required to give them a vivid picture–based on this own experience–of what they can expect when such a collapse occurs and estimate their chance of avoiding it. His assignment would include urging regime officials to accept an exit pass now while it’s still available. Meanwhile Libyans get their money back, save Syria from destruction and help their Arab Spring brothers remove another Bad Guy.
NECESSITIES: First, a temporary truce. Second, both sides would need to be strongly aware of how much each has to gain by honoring it. Thirdly, in order to reduce mutual fears about what about safety of persons and property after Assad’s departure, both sides would have to guarantee certain minimal conditions that I look at in a later post.