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Monday, August 07, 2006

Proposal to establish a West Asia Parliament in Syria

The western portion of Asia (an area commonly referred to as the Middle East) is perhaps the last remaining region on earth where large numbers of people still believe that violence is an effective means of solving political problems. While it is true that hatred and bitterness are not likely to disappear overnight, healthier conditions can be created that allow these corroding symptoms to dissipate over years and decades, and for genuine cooperation to return. There was a time when Muslims and Jews ruled the world together for almost four hundred years, during the seventh to eleventh centuries. Northern Ireland is a more recent example of a nation overcoming deep-rooted violence, and other countries and regions that have recovered from wars should also be studied.

Any efforts that regional and international partners can put forth that promote dialogue rather than push war, are dearly desired at this time. Ideally every nation would have some form of direct democratic representation on as many as five levels: local/municipal, regional, provincial / state, national, continental /multinational. Allowing West Asian citizens to vote on their representatives to a new regional parliament would instill both cooperation and participation in decision making, where they are clearly needed most. This is not a magic pill and will not transform societies overnight, but having a say in how their region is represented could lead to people experiencing the value of this form of communication, and many would likely want to experience more elections. The Palestinians learned a hard lesson when they voted for Hamas and war, because they got what they voted for. If Abbas can put together a Unity Government with Fatah sharing power with moderate and reformed Hamas parliamentarians, then Abbas will have the authority and respect required to launch the new nation of Palestine into full statehood.

A four-nation agreement between Palestine, Israel, Lebanon and Jordan is not difficult to imagine, but many readers are likely to have problems envisioning the currently pro-terrorist Baath regime in Syria ever agreeing to a meaningful peace deal. OK, first picture a scenario where both Hamas and Hezbollah leaders are about to sign peace treaties with Israel and Lebanon, and word hits Damascus that Amman is getting in on a four-nation trade bloc. If instead of being left on the sidelines, Syria were to agree to implement democratic initiatives at the regional and national levels, and to grant the Palestinians some or all of the Golan lands, then Syria would receive massive development funding and a full endorsement as host of the proposed Asia West Parliament. This new regional facility would be constructed along the Damascus Beirut highway, west of Damascus near the Lebanese border. If the five nations in the agreement and the international community all support Syria as host of the new house of representatives, then the West Asian powerhouses such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iraq are unlikely to dissent.

The establishment of an Asia West Parliament in southwestern Syria, on this road between Beirut and Damascus, is therefore advised for the security and prosperity of the region. It is suggested that this home of governance be built about 10 to 30 kilometers from the Lebanon border, possibly east of Zabadani, said to be near the ancient village of Aristobulus, a Herodian king known for his wise, peaceful ways. If Syria is not amenable to the democratic and peace developments, alternative locations would be on the same road, but another twenty to thirty kilometers to the west, on the Lebanese side of the border, or in Jordan near Amman.

Though Lebanon and Jordan would each make exemplary hosts for the Asia West Parliament, selecting Syria as host nation has distinct advantages. With Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon already forming an oasis of tolerance, adding Syria to the progressive zone widens peace efforts and helps bring Sunni-Shia concerns to the negotiating table, and off the battlefield. The alternative, of ostracizing and alienating Syria, could help turn that great nation into a battleground for sectarian and ideological concerns. By including Syria in both of the security and the economic blocks, and by locating the regional parliament here, stability in the entire area is improved.

If regional stability is not restored, then Palestinian nationhood could be delayed further, and nobody wants another Baghdad or Gaza where secure Damascus now sits. Why should the hopes and dreams of Palestinian and Lebanese citizenry be held hostage to Sunni-Shia conflicts, or worse, to abstract ideas of potential administration turnover?

Under this proposed comprehensive regional peace, security and democracy plan, each West Asian nation will receive between 3 and 15 parliamentary seats in the Asia West Parliament / Parliament Asia Ouest, to be elected by popular ballot.

Total estimated representation would initially be estimated at 155 to 170 members, to be elected by direct national voting. Construction on the parliament buildings is proposed to begin in 2007, with the first election to be held in autumn of 2009, for sitting beginning winter 2010.

To be continued and expanded upon

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