The Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) expects that Russia, Turkey and Iran will reach a consensus to remove the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar Al-Assad, and establish a ceasefire in exchange for forming a transitional government that includes the opposition, members of the regime and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The RIAC, which is known to be close to the decision-makers in the Russian government, said in a report that a Russian organisation named the Foundation for the Protection of National Values, affiliated with the security services and the office of President Vladimir Putin, has been conducting an opinion poll in Syria.
This would send a very clear political message, conveying that the Syrian people do not want Al-Assad to remain president.
The report stated that, since the beginning of its military intervention in Syria, Moscow has been keen to avoid being presented as the defender of Al-Assad, adding that in negotiations it has stressed that “the Syrian people will decide whether or not Al-Assad will remain in power”.
Russia has become more serious about making changes in Syria, RIAC explained, not least because protecting Al-Assad has become a burden.
News reports have said Russia suspects that Al-Assad is not only unable to lead the country, but also that the head of the Syrian regime is dragging Moscow towards the same fate as Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Iran, which is suffering from stifling US sanctions, has no interest in achieving stability in the whole region, because it considers it a battlefield with Washington.
As a result, Moscow is working on a combination of scenarios including one that sees forces present in Syria accepting each other’s scope of influence. As a result, Syria would remain divided into a region protected by Tehran and Moscow, the opposition region supported by Turkey, and the East Euphrates supported by Washington and the SDF.
It indicated that the second option requires a complete withdrawal of all foreign forces and the unification of the country after achieving a political transformation in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution No. 2254.
The news agency considered that this option is less costly for all parties.
Turkey has long called for the removal of Al-Assad as a prerequisite to the end of its operation in Syria.
NOTE: This page was updated on 19 May 2020 at 09.36am BST, to remove quotes incorrectly attributed to the Russian news agency TASS.