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Imminent shifts: Washington and the Syrian issue

December 6, 2014 at 2:26 am

What do you come out with when you talk to three American officials in regards to the US’ foreign policy towards the Syrian issue and the imminent shifts therein? You learn how to distinguish between the points of view that are viewed as essential to American foreign policy and those that are in line with the interests of Washington’s consumer allies, some of whom have become more disturbing than Washington’s enemies.

Today, Washington is geared more towards solving the Syrian crisis than it has been at any other time and when the US administration speaks of training the “moderate opposition” in the country, they are not referring to dismantling the regime in its entirety per se, but making the proper modifications that would ensure a final settlement to this crisis while also containing the opposition as it is embodied by Ankara and Riyadh.

A political solution in Syria is no longer one that requires Al-Assad’s departure or decision to step down. There is now this belief in the US administration’s mind-set that Al-Assad represents a statuesque cornerstone for the regime and that his departure or the dismantlement of his regime would lead to Syria’s collapse and render the country at the mercy of Jihadist and terrorist groups.

The implementation of any political solution in Syria would require the participation of Russia and Iran and for the parties involved to ignore the points outlined by Geneva 2 because Iran’s absence from the conference explains its failure. These endeavours would be made easier if Washington and Tehran reach a final agreement in regards to the Iranian nuclear file, which in all reality will not happen before the spring of next year. Until then, it is highly unlikely that any significant gains within the Syrian crisis will be achieved.

As far as Washington is concerned, the US has no intention to establish a no-fly zone along Syria’s borders despite Turkey’s eagerness to do so. The US seems to believe that Turkey’s desire to establish a no-fly zone near its borders centres on “Sultan Erdogan’s” interest in securing his vacation time as opposed to solving the Syrian crisis. Any sense of confidence in the opposition, particularly the moderate opposition, seems to be completely doomed as many believe that they reached the “People’s Palace” in the heart of Damascus only to fall at the hands of ISIS and its allies a few days later.

In assessing both the situation’s regional and international positions, there is an apparent resentment for Turkey’s expansionist ideology in the region. As for Saudi Arabia, due to its sense of shared animosity with Iran, it would like to see the Assad regime fall today before tomorrow. Yet, Saudi’s point of view is far less intransigent than that of Turkey. Moreover, France’s decision to support Turkey’s push for the establishment of a buffer zone also raises a lot of questions concerning the motives behind such a decision.

The Rand Corporation, an organisation that has garnered a lot of attention from the US Department of Defence, recently issued a report stating that the collapse of the Assad regime is the worst scenario that could happen when it comes to US foreign interests because it would allow Syria to be swallowed whole by Jihadist and terrorist groups, an outcome that would further strengthen both Iran and Russia’s positions in the region. In the eyes of the US, victory for the regime, with the resulting enhanced influence of Russia and Iran, is less costly than the alternative, the regime’s collapse and its subsequent consequences.

In conclusion, these imminent changes in the US position on Syria, whether they have been crystallised or are on the way to crystallisation, show that there is more of a convergence with Russian and Iranian positions at play. By consequence, the US is moving further and further away from Ankara, Riyadh or Paris. Are we witnessing a new map of coalitions and alliances? Are we moving towards a Geneva 3 in the political game? We will not be able to answer these questions until next spring, when we see the outcome of the US-Iranian negotiations.

Translated from Addustour newspaper, 4 December, 2014

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.