As evidenced in the preceding sections, the Constitutional Committee process and military dynamics on the ground have been closely connected in the GoS strategy of reconquest. Due to the imbalance of power between the pro-Assad coalition and the opposition since 2015, the former has been able to link and exploit both the battlefield and conference rooms for its own advantage in the following ways:
Buying time to create facts on the ground: Russia initiated the Constitutional Committee to create a bridge between the Astana/Sochi process and the UN-led peace process that was based on UNSCR 2254. By securing the UN’s support, Russia successfully legitimised its more exclusive Astana/Sochi process, even though it was in fact a framework to facilitate a military solution to the conflict and to deconflict Russia’s regional interests with those of Turkey and Iran. By keeping the UN-led process on life support, the pro-Assad coalition bought time to create facts on the ground without having to fear greater political pressure from the international community that could have translated into military pressure. After all, the complete absence of a political process would have increased the likelihood of military pressure since foreign states might have decided to force the pro-Assad coalition into negotiations through military intervention.
Expediting the destruction of political opposition and governance alternatives within Syria: The pro-Assad coalition’s military strategy of collectively targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure since early phases of the conflict has hampered political and civil society consolidation in opposition-held areas. This has meant that governance alternatives to the GoS could not develop on a large and organised scale. As a result, opposition bodies, as well as opposition-leaning civil society groups and individuals, have been forced to engage mostly from abroad. Detached from their communities, these groups have gradually lost credibility and legitimacy. This dynamic also plays out with the opposition and opposition-leaning side of the Constitutional Committee, whose members have to work from abroad and thus remain detached from a large part of the communities on whose behalf they negotiate.
Creating and maintaining polarisation: While the Constitutional Committee and the accompanying UN-sponsored political process provided the pro-Assad coalition with political cover to continue its military offensives, at the same time these offensives undermined the Constitutional Committee’s viability. For Syria’s opposition, and also for parts of the civil society delegation that have been demanding a meaningful ceasefire for years, the purposeful continuation of war crimes is nothing less than a blunt provocation. In addition, such acts evidently increase polarisation between the negotiating parties and put pressure on everyone to take sides in a more uncompromising manner.