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As global powers squirm in indecision over Syria, Bashar Assad’s hand improves
As global powers squirm in indecision over Syria, Bashar Assad’s hand improves – Middle East – Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper.
( While “intervention” may be less likely, an Israeli attack will probably happen by tomorrow morning. Assuming Assad lives up to his promise to Iran, there will be a Syrian retaliation and a full blown war. Say a prayer for our IDF soldiers and people on the home front. – JW )
Competing interests undermine attempts to convene a global summit on Syria and make military intervention increasingly unlikely.
Confusion, controversy, helplessness, frustration and despair now describe not only the rebel forces but also the superpowers that are searching for an easy solution to the Syrian crisis. A solution that will not require them to intervene militarily; a solution that will ensure that Syria is ruled by a legitimate, agreed-upon regime, that no superpower takes too big a bite at the expense of its partners, that Iran stops being a regional player and that the crisis does not shake Jordan, set off a domino effect in Lebanon or unleash the hunting hounds of Israel and Turkey.
No American, Russian or Chinese magician has yet managed to pull off such a convoluted trick. It’s doubtful that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, currently in the region, can meet the challenge.
The old-new solution that Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov have found is an international summit, like the one in June 2012, which fell apart shortly after it convened. The idea is to bring together opposition and regime representatives to work out a resolution all parties can live with. Theoretically, in the absence of a military victory for either side, talking could offer a solution. But the preliminary problems, starting with the guest list, could signal the fate of the entire undertaking. Russia is demanding that Iran take part. While the United States is considered likely to acquiesce, certain opposition groups object, on the grounds that a state that abets the murder of Syrian civilians does not belong at the conference.
There is as yet no agreement on which representatives of the regime will attend. According to unconfirmed reports Syrian President Bashar Assad has given a list to Russia, but the United States and the opposition have not agreed on the names. Several agenda-setting meetings are scheduled for this week and next week. These include among Russia, the United States and Britain, among the five powers and among the foreign ministers of the so-called Friends of Syria group of nations, including Turkey and the Arab states. The multiplicity of meetings indicates that there is little agreement.
But even if the parties could agree on the participants and the opposition accepts the representatives of the regime that still leaves one small matter unresolved: the agenda of the summit and the program to be implemented. Assad insists on staying in power until the 2014 presidential election. The United States insists that Assad has no role in any transitional government that may be established. Russia, by insisting “The Syrian people will decide,” supports Assad’s position.
Iran views the continuation of Assad’s rule as the basis for its hold in the Middle East and has defined his survival as an Iranian national interest. Turkey demands Assad’s removal from power, but will not oppose any solution reached among Russia, the United States and the rebels. This will be the position Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan presents when he meets with U.S President Barack Obama Thursday. There are disagreements among the Arab states, too, particularly between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the opposition’s main financial backers. Qatar is promoting Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, which comprises the majority of the political opposition and is an important component of the rebel military forces. Saudi Arabia fears that Syria, like Egypt and Tunisia, will become “Brotherhood states” and ally with Iran.
With such a mosaic of disagreements and conflicting interests, it’s hard to find even the tiniest common denominator that could bode well for the summit. But at the same time the option of military intervention seems to be fading into the distance. Obama has not yet decided whether to accept the pro-military intervention position of the CIA or the anti-interventionist stance of the U.S. Department of Defense. In addition Obama must decide whether to join Britain and France in arming the rebels from June 1 or to continue the tango with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Turkey will not intervene militarily without international agreement, and neither the powers nor the rebels want Israeli military intervention.
The more the military option wanes, the stronger Assad’s cards become. He already seems to be in control of the thermostat, not only in Syria but throughout the region. He can, as he has presumably already done, carry out terror attacks in Turkey and Lebanon, and Jordan could be the next target. Such “anonymous” attacks will not serve as a pretext for attacking him, but they could give rise to deadly infighting in each of these states. At the moment, that is Assad’s strength.
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