The Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad has reportedly sent an envoy to the United States to discuss the resumption of ties between the two countries, as a result of an alleged rift between the regime and its long-time ally Russia.
According to the adviser to Russia’s Foreign Ministry Rami Al-Shaer, who spoke to Syrian opposition news outlet Syria TV, Al-Assad is approaching the US with the offer of coordinating in “all issues related to the Middle East,” on the condition that Washington accepts and recognises the regime’s legitimacy to rule Syria.
Al-Shaer claimed that the offer to resume ties is a consequence of a recent fallout between Damascus and Moscow, primarily due to the two allies’ disagreement over how to handle the renewed uprising in the southern Syrian province of Daraa.
That province, known as the cradle of the Syrian revolution due to the eruption of the first protests there in 2011, has been under siege by the Assad regime and its affiliated Iranian militias since June, with the past month seeing a full-on offensive and bombardment of the opposition-held areas in the province.
Despite multiple ceasefires brokered by Russia in the area between the regime and the Daraa central committee, the last of which was agreed upon over the weekend, Al-Assad’s forces and the Iranian militias violated it only hours later and continue to obstruct any tangible reconciliation process.
While the regime seeks to capture the entirety of Syria and crush all opposition elements, Russia has attempted to take a more practical approach by acting as a mediator and urging Al-Assad to commit to a peace process through a political resolution.
Al-Shaer also claimed that the Assad regime is aware of Daraa’s close geographical proximity to Israel – an ally of the US – and consequently fears that the conflict in the southern province could spill over and attract foreign parties to the situation. He alleged that the regime, therefore, has signalled its willingness to coordinate with both Israel and the US in order to get them to accept its rule and support its aims for the province.
The Russian adviser also said that Al-Assad believes that if his regime were to reconcile with the opposition instead of crushing it, then the wider Syrian population would see it as a renewed opportunity to demand that the regime step down or reform. “I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I say that 90% of the Syrian people want a change in government,” Al-Shaer stated.
If the reports of the Syrian envoy has headed to the US are true and Washington does agree to re-establish relations and accept Al-Assad’s rule, it would marginalise Russia’s role in Syria and deal a significant blow to Moscow’s relations with Al-Assad, six years after the Russian military’s intervention in the civil war shifted the balance of power in favour of Al-Assad.
When it was revealed last year that the White House sent a small diplomatic delegation to Syria in an effort to negotiate the release of imprisoned American journalist Austin Tice, there were some who saw it as a potential opportunity for the two countries to restore relations. The US reiterated, however, that it would not re-establish ties with the Syrian regime until Damascus agreed to the United Nations’ plan for a political resolution to the conflict.