First, be inclusive. As the South African transition in the early 1990s illustrated, bringing all parties to the table is essential. Both Iraq and the protracted peace process in Burundi – in the volatile Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa – underscored the perils of exclusion.
Syria is emerging from four decades of brutal minority rule. The society is fragmented into nearly four dozen ethnic groups and a plethora of competing political groups. Without meaningful participation from, say, Assad’s Baathists or the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah, in transitional and constitutional negotiations, building social and political unity will prove frustrating, if not impossible. Leaving these groups out could also provoke more violence.
Second, integrate the rebel forces and national Army under civilian authority. In effect, the many and continuous defections of high-ranking Syrian military officials and rank-and-file soldiers have already set this process in motion.
Security is a precondition to transformation and development. In Syria’s context, that means protecting borders, safeguarding minorities, and sealing off chemical weapons estimated to be cached in 45 different locations throughout the country. The credibility of the armed forces after Assad will depend on unifying previous belligerents and on joint leadership committed to an interim national unity government.
Third, protect, encourage, and engage civil society. In the brief sunlight period following Bashar al-Assad’s ascent to power in 2000 after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, cafes buzzed with vibrant political and social debate amid expectation of change.