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The Moscow initiative…who wins and who loses?

Thank you to the Russian bear for sympathising with the Syrian people.

Thank you to the Persians for understanding the need for negotiations a peaceful solution to stop the bloodshed of the Syrian people.

Thank you for Al-Assad’s merciful heart which responded to the call for logic, peace and preserving Syria from fragmentation.

I am referring to the Moscow initiative at a time when the international community, led by the US, has been distracted by the global war on the Islamic State (ISIS) and left the Syrian crisis to suffer more complications, blood and dead ends. Throughout this, suddenly the Russians called for an initiative that brings together the Syrian opposition and Al-Assad’s regime to the negotiating table in an effort to reach a peaceful settlement to the Syrian crisis.

Why has Russia come up with this initiative when it has always used its veto to save Al-Assad from the International Criminal Court and from the consequences of his use of chemical weapons against the Syrians?

Why has Al-Assad agreed to sit at the negotiating table while he completely refuses the idea of giving up his seat, even if it costs him part of the Syrian state?

Why has Iran accepted the initiative while it has established a fateful project that can only be completed with Al-Assad’s Syria?

From in between all of these lines emerges the most important question: What will the Syrian people gain?

What playing cards does the opposition have on the table?

Let’s start from the beginning, the Russian bear:

Moscow is sponsoring these negotiations with a background in the crises that it has caused, as the members of the Ukrainian crises are still burning after Putin annexed Crimea. By doing so, Russia challenged America and Europe, isolating itself from the West.

Russia’s supportiveness of Al-Assad’s regime, as a strategic ally militarily and logistically and its alignment with the Iranian policy in the region has forced it to share the effects of a severe economic crisis with Iran after the decline of oil prices.

Therefore, Russia took advantage of America and its allies’ preoccupation with the war on IS and its disregard for the Syrian issue in order to play a leading role in moving the issue.

In light of its support for the initiative, Russia hoped to alleviate the consequences of the economic crisis it is suffering and support the Syrian opposition parties linked to this.

By playing this role, Russia also aims to manipulate the US and Europe after the sanctions they imposed on Russia in light of the Ukrainian crisis.

Russia is not concerned with ending the fighting in Syria. It is keen to feed its fires because this Levantine jewel represents a prominent market for selling arms since Hafez Al-Assad’s reign. In addition to this, some analysts have pointed out that Russia fears that the end of the conflict in Syria would be a gateway for a great revolution that may extend to Russia, China and Iran.

With regards to the negotiations table, Russia is most concerned with allowing the regime loyal to it to survive, even if the head of the regime (Bashar Al-Assad) and it will inevitably have arms deals from the Safavids.

The Iranian camp

This camp includes Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. They are the parties involved in the project run by the Iranians and each one of its allies (Syria and Hezbollah) has a role to play.

Iran has also accepted this initiative due to its exhausting and severe crises, beginning with the nuclear programme it continues to bargain for in order to preserve.

It also suffers from the economic crisis I mentioned earlier, the consequences of which it shares with Russia due to the fall in oil prices. This was preceded by economic sanctions which we will not deny is subject to the relationship and exchange of interests between Iran, the US, and the West.

Iran has also accepted the Moscow initiative in light of the state of exhaustion it is suffering after its zealous activity in the region, as it is bearing the burden of paying the bills for the war in Syria, supporting the Houthis in Yemen, supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon, and supporting the Shia minorities it relies on in its 50 year plan to impose Persian domination and establish the Shia crescent, as well as support for the promotion of Shia thought in all countries around the world.

In addition to this, Iran is accepting the negotiations due to the passing of days towards the end of the timeframe for negotiations regarding the Iranian nuclear programme. Iran recently got an extension on the deadline from America and its allies.

Therefore, Iran reaps many gains from its response to the initiative, most importantly easing the intensity of the clashes in the region in order to alleviate the effects of the economic crisis and create bridges of understanding with the countries in the region.

Iran can also pave the way through such understandings with the United States for negotiations on its nuclear programme, as well as have enough time to catch its breath by directing the Syrian issue, the heart of its crises, to the path of negotiations.

As for Al-Assad, he desires more emphasis on the importance of his survival in order to preserve Syria by means of negotiations in which he will participate with the intention of failing. He also intends on dividing the ranks of the Syrian opposition, and he is ultimately a tool in the hands of Tehran, as Tehran manages his military operations and preserves his throne.

The Syrian opposition

In other words, the Syrian opposition I am referring to are the opposition parties that have been invited to negotiate, as the Syrian National Coalition was disregarded. Iran achieved its goal of having the wing it wanted sitting at the table in Moscow.

The opposition is engaging in negotiations while knowing with certainty that Al-Assad is a red line for Iran. This is what allowed Al-Assad to accept negotiations. So, what is the opposition aiming for?

The most that will be offered to the opposition are more farcical elections with pre-determined results and then continuing in the same vicious cycle. However, this will be a blow to the opposition and will deepen the differences amongst them, as well as the differences between them and the differences between the opposition parties and the leaders on the battlefields.

Russia will win, Iran will win, and Al-Assad will win; the only loser will be the Syrian people.

This article was first published in Arabic by Arabi21.

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

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