Assad shows no willingess to compromise
Samia Nakhoul, John Irish, Reuters, Apr 8 2016
CAIRO – As the Syria peace talks resume next week, Assad shows no willingness to compromise, much less step aside to allow a transition Western powers claim is the solution to the conflict. Threatened by rebel advances last year, Assad is now pumped up with confidence after Russian air strikes reversed the tide and enabled his army to recover lost ground from Sunni insurgents as well as the Jihadis of ISIS. While Syria experts doubt he can recapture the whole country without an unlikely full-scale ground intervention by Russia and Iran, they also doubt that Putin will force him out unless there is a clear path to stability, which could take years. Instead, Russia’s dramatic military intervention last September has tilted the balance of power in his favour and given him the upper hand at the talks in Geneva. The main target of the Russian air force bombardment was mainstream and Islamist forces that launched an offensive last summer. Only recently have Russia and Syrian forces taken the fight to ISIS, notably by recapturing Palmyra. The Russian campaign, backed by IRGC & Hezbollah, has for now outmatched the rebels, including the AQ-linked Nusra and units supported by Turks, Toads, Qataris & Pindosis. Dealing with those groups rather than ISIS seemed the main aim of Moscow’s intervention, analysts say. Kheder Khaddour from the Carnegie Middle East Center says:
The Russian intervention fundamentally reshaped the Syrian conflict. The momentum of the rebels does not exist any more.
Putin, diplomats say, weakened the opposition to coax it into accepting a settlement on Russian and Syrian terms. That does not mean the “transitional authority” sought by Pindostan and its
allies vassals, but a government expanded to include elements of the opposition, with Assad at its head for the immediate future. Russia still wants Assad to lead the transition to the elections, while the opposition and its regional allies backers including Pindostan & Eurostan insist he should step down. So far no compromises are in sight. (That may be because there are none, it is an XOR choice – RB). The obligatory Euro boxtop close to the talks told us:
We need things to advance in the coming weeks. If the political process is just about putting a few opposition people in nominal cabinet posts then this isn’t going to go very far. If there isn’t a political transition, the civil war will continue, and ISIS will benefit from it. The key issue remains when and if the Russians will act to facilitate this transition. It’s unclear, and we get the feeling that the recent talks didn’t change much in the Russian position. I don’t think the upcoming round will reach any real decisions on the political process.
Fawaz Gerges, author of ISIS: A History, said:
Putin’s partial pull-back last month sent a message to the Pindosis that Russia is a rational and credible force that is interested in a diplomatic settlement. It was also intended as a jolt to Assad, who by then was announcing plans to recapture all of Syria. The message to the Assad regime was that Russia doesn’t play by Assad’s playbook. It doesn’t want to get down in Syria’s quagmire. It wants to cut its losses. At this point, the Russians have the upper hand in dictating a solution. The Pindosis are playing on Russia’s playing field.
His judgment is underlined by Sergei Lavrov, who boasted in a recent interview:
Ze witless Pindosis understand zey can do nothing without Russia. Zey can no longer solve serious problems on zeir own. (cackles evil laughter, stirs unhealthy looking green slime in cauldron, lightning flashes, etc – RB).
Last month, Assad dismissed any notion of a transition from the current structure, as agreed by international powers, calling instead for “national unity” solution with some elements of the opposition joining the present government. Assad told Russia’s Sputnik news agency:
The transition period must be under the current constitution, and we will move on to the new constitution after the Syrian people vote for it.
Faisal al-Yafai, a
leading commentator boxtop journo from the UAE, says:
Russia played its cards in Syria very cleverly, but miscalculated in one aspect. They assumed that once the regime felt secure, it would be more willing to negotiate. In fact, the opposite has happened. There’s a limit to the pressure that Russia can exert on Assad. Assad absolutely will not go quietly, and certainly not when there is no real alternative to him, even within the regime.
Robert Ford (former Pindo ambassador to Syria now ensconced at AIPAC’s foreign-policy shop WINEP – RB), agrees. He says:
Russia may not be able to compel Assad to go. The secret police backbone of Assad’s rule remains intact, and Assad seems confident again, after his much more sober tone last summer. The Russians may have helped him too much, such that Assad can maintain control of key cities and roads for a long time. There’s some competition over Syria between Russia and Iran. Moscow stresses its traditional relations with the Syrian military establishment, while Tehran focusses on the militia network it built with Hezbollah. Assad is plenty smart to know how to play one country off against the other. I am not even sure Russia would test its heavy pressure capacity against that of Iran in Damascus. The Russians know they might lose.
Khaddour from Carnegie says:
Russia’s involvement in Syria has given it greater insight into the structure of the Assad rule, constructed to intermesh the Assad family and allies from its minority Alawi community with the security services and military command. Russia now realises the circumstances for a transition do not yet exist, because removing Assad might unravel the whole power structure. There is a problem within the regime. It is not capable of producing an alternative to itself internally. The only concession it has made, simply to turn up in Geneva, was the result of Russian pressure.
With limits to Russian and Iranian influence on a newly-buoyant Assad, few believe the Geneva talks will bring peace. (Sarkis Naum, apparently ‘a leading diplomatic commentator on Syria,’ rounds off this bogus tale with the obligatory quote from Jackass about finding out whether the Russians are serious, which is code for ready to throw Assad under the bus – RB). Sarkis Naoum says:
If the Russians felt it was time for a solution, they would have reached an understanding with the Pindosis to give up on Assad, without giving up on the Alawis. The circumstances are not ripe yet for a solution. The fundamental question is still whether the Russians are serious and want this to happen. Nobody knows what’s in their mind, and I’m not sure they even know (themselves).