Alexander Kuznetsov, deputy director of the Institute of Forecasting and Resolution of Political Conflicts When I listen to the Western analysts, or read the Western media, I have the impression that they are concerned about the fate of Bashar al-Assad more than his own bodyguards are. In my opinion, firstly Assad should remain the president of Syria for a transitional period, whether this period will last for one and a half or two years. Just at least because if we now remove Assad we will destroy the entire structure of power in Syria. And we will have to agree not with a unified Syrian government, but with the generals of the Syrian army, who will suddenly become warlords. That is, relatively speaking, we will need to negotiate not with one Assad, but with ten Assads. It is almost impossible, I can say as a man who has been repeatedly in Syria and the Middle East. With regard to future ways of the Syrian settlement, the most important thing, in my opinion, is to create in Syria a political system that would contribute to stability in the country and would satisfy the interests of all groups of Syrians. Syria is very diverse, multi-vectoral, multi-religious, there are several religious communities: Sunnis, Alawites, Druze, Shiites, Syrian Christians. There are very different regions. Let’s assume that the way of life, the economic structure of the inhabitants of Damascus is not the same as that of Bedouins of north-western Syria, in the same provinces of Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor, and so on. The aim is to create a political system that is acceptable to everyone. Naturally, this system must have democratic elements, because Ms. McCormack correctly stated that the political system that existed prior to the crisis in Syria has in many ways generated the crisis. There was an over-centralization, there was an arbitrariness of the Syrian intelligence services, we all know that. There was a suppression of the opposition, and in fact even the Ba’ath Party, which when Hafez al-Assad was in power had a very strong position, during President Bashar Assad was neglected openly, so it could not act, unfortunately, as a stabilizing element, and the Syrian crisis began. Thus, it is necessary to create a new political system. I think that this issue requires very careful consideration, of course. And any first elections in Syria must begin no earlier than in a year or two, when the political forces in Syria will be finally crystallized, there will be new political parties, movements and so on. A renewal of the political elite of Syria must take place. But there is no need to feel great illusions in relation to the migrant Syrian opposition. Many of these people have not been living in Syria for 15-20 years, they have lost many of the field positions, and, most importantly, they do not control the armed groups in Syria in the field. That is, a new political elite in Syria must emerge from both the healthy elements that support Assad’s government, and, perhaps, the commanders of the armed opposition. Most of the Syrian expatriates cannot help with this, in my opinion, simply due to objective factors. With regard to the federal system in Syria, this proposal raises serious questions, because both Assad’s government, and many people in opposition who are powerful Arab nationalists do not want the appearance of a Kurdish autonomy in the north-west of Syria, considering that it could be a factor of Syrian division in the future. But we cannot remove the Kurdish factor, the Kurds are the real political power in the north of Syria, they have quite effectively confronted the terrorist group Islamic State. So, naturally, some elements of federalization should be included in the new image of Syria.