As the USA missed yet another deadline it had previously set for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster, some Middle East analysts suggest that the West dropped its idea of toppling the legitimate Syrian leader, especially, as he enjoys such strong support from Russia and Iran. Back in May, US Secretary of State John Kerry set a new deadline for President Assad’s exit… 1 August. Four days past the deadline, there seems to be no further demands for the legitimate Syrian leader to go.
German Middle East analyst Guido Steinberg said in an interview with the German news service Tagesschau:
The USA took a reality check; it understands that this is a hard goal to reach, especially, with Russian and Iranian support for President Assad. Apparently, Washington no longer bets on ousting Assad, but it reiterates that it’d be desirable. Meanwhile, the USA does nothing to make it happen. One reason is that the USA and Europe need him in power to control the country and prevent a refugee influx into Europe. There are about ten million people in Syria; thus, the West has concerns that if the country goes down, those living in such large cities as Damascus, Hama, Homs, and Lattakia would flood Europe. Ergo, the USA and its allies no longer want to topple the régime.
However, Bloomberg View columnist Leonid Bershidsky provides another reason the USA seems to be dropping its demands for President Assad to go:
With Russian air support, the régime forces and their Iranian and Lebanese allies are pushing back and maintaining the siege [of eastern Aleppo], which cuts the rebels off from Turkey. That’s a nasty situation for the USA (quoting Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Foundation). In Syria, Putin is holding a much stronger hand. Unlike the USA, he backs a capable force that… with Russian and Iranian support… could take on the insurgents. Probably, the opposition missed its best chance to negotiate a political transition… since the USA is holding back, so is Turkey. Assad, Putin, Hizbullah, and Iranian forces are going to pummel [the terrorists].
If Assad’s forces take Aleppo, the war would become essentially binary… between the Assad coalition and the Islamic State (Daesh). For President Putin, this is preferable to a negotiated solution. The defeat of the opposition groups in Aleppo would make the American reluctance to leave Assad in power irrelevant. There’d be no alternative. The USA appears to be allowing Assad, Putin, and the Iranian generals to implement their plan. If they succeed in taking Aleppo, they’d face ISIS without American support. Probably, they’d be able to defeat the terrorists if they don’t have to fight on several fronts. Such a scenario would definitely affect the USA’s credibility as an international arbiter, as it might eventually have to watch from the sidelines as Assad and Erdoğan gang up on the Kurdish militias that received open American backing. However, it still might be a better option.
Meanwhile, Ambassador A N Borodavkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN in Geneva, also recently mentioned Assad’s fate:
As far as we understand it, the USA no longer talks about Assad’s immediate departure. Washington’s updated stance on the issue focuses on saying that Assad supposedly doesn’t have a political future in Syria, but [the Americans] aren’t demanding that he resign right away.
5 August 2016