The joint communique issued by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this week regarding Syria has in retrospect raised eyebrows in the world press because it seems to adopt Russian, not American, rhetoric on the issue. The document called for an international conference on the crisis jointly sponsored by the US and Russia, and for a negotiated solution. The Russian insistence that there be no precondition of President Bashar al-Assad stepping down is implied. The abandonment of this precondition is a deal breaker for the Syrian opposition, who considers him a mass murderer for his brutal military assault on largely peaceful protesters, which pushed them into armed resistance. Although the Syrian crisis could have been resolved long ago if the ruling one-party Baath state would have been willing to move to free and fair elections, and to compete for parliamentary seats the way the Russian Communist Party does, there is no sign whatsoever of a willingness by top Baath officials to risk relinquishing power that way. The Baath bloody-mindedness has cost the country some 70,000 dead and 4 million displaced (in a population of 22 million) during the past two years.
Kerry’s sudden acquiescence in the Russian talking points is attributed to some by increasing US fears that the Syrian opposition in the north is increasingly being captured by the Nusra Front, a radical Muslim group that has declared allegiance to al-Qaeda. Likewise, President Obama appears to consider the charges of regime use of poison gas to be inconclusive.
The USG Open Source Center translated an outraged Italian commentary on the statement”
Italian Commentary on Kerry Rome Talks: Obama ‘First Big Loser’ in Syria War
Commentary by Gian Micalessin: “Obama’s Defeat: To Pacify Syria He Is in Cahoots With Putin — the Spring Is Over: No War on Al-Asad”
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Document Type: OSC Translated Text
The first big loser in the Syrian war is Barack Obama. A With a death toll of 70,000 and after two years of dithering, the White House is at a total loss as to what to do, so it is going into reverse gear and placing its fate in the hands of “enemy” (Russian President) Vladimir Putin. Thus as the Pentagon sets aside both its plans to arm the rebels and its plans for a potential direct operation, the Democratic Administration is adopting a softer approach with Moscow and it is seeking Russia’s cooperation on getting negotiations going between the government in Damascus and the armed oppositionists.
Obama’s great surrender was sealed precisely in Moscow on Tuesday (7 May) night. A There, after a meeting with President Vladimir Putin preceded by a humiliating two-hour wait, Secretary of State John Kerry announced, in the company of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, that a decision has been reached to hastily organize a negotiating conference with the participation of both regime and rebel representatives. A “We wish to convene it as soon as possible, as early as the end of this month,” Kerry explained, making it clear that Russia will be doing everything in its power to persuade its Syrian ally to agree to dialogue, while Washington will take care of propelling the insurgents toward the negotiating table.
In short, in the space of a mere 24 hours, John Kerry has overturned the political stance that the White House has been pursuing for the past two years, even reneging on what seemed to be that position’s nonnegotiable “red line,” namely refusal to negotiate with a regime led by (Syrian President) Bashar al-Asad. A “The alternative is letting Syria head straight toward the abyss, or if not the abyss, then chaos,” the Secretary of State explained by way of a justification. A But justifications are not enough to conceal the weight of a diplomatic defeat without too many precedents — a defeat triggered by the errors of judgment made by an administration which was convinced that it could trust Qatar, and which ended up finding itself treading the path mapped out by Doha and backing groups linked to the worst kind of Islamic radicalism.
In contrast, pro-Baath journalist and editor Abdel Bari Atwan reacted with glee to the joint statement, as translated by the USG Open Source Center from his editorial in al-Quds al-Arabi:
Article Discusses Proposed International Conference on Syria, US, Russian Stands on Syrian Situation
Article by Chief Editor Abd-al-Bari Atwan: a(euro)oeFrom the Red Line to the White Flaga(euro)
Al-Quds al-Arabi Online
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Document Type: OSC Translated Text
After marathon negotiations that lasted until late the night before last, US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart and host Sergey Lavrov announced that they agreed to call for convening an international conference on the Syrian crisis, to be attended by delegations from the regime and opposition, to reach a political solution based on the Geneva statement. This announcement could have been made only in the framework of a deal that has been reached between the foreign ministers of the world’s two superpowers at present.
It is obvious that the US Administration has made the biggest concession by adopting the Russian stand and the formula of a political solution that Russia proposes. Washington earlier announced its red lines and asserted that it would not revise its previous policies and stands on the Syrian crisis and added that it intends to supply the Syrian opposition with advanced modern weapons. But here it is now completely submitting to the Russian conditions and calling for a a(euro)oepeace conferencea(euro) that will recognize the Syrian regime’s “legitimacy” and will not repeat the standing phrase on the need for the Syrian regime to go as a condition for any negotiations with it.
There is absolutely no talk about “conclusive evidence” that the regime used chemical weapons against its people, nor is there a repetition of President Barack Obama’s favorite phrase that the Syrian regimea(euro)(TM)s days are numbered. Instead, the talk is about negotiations based on the Geneva statement that calls for the formation of a transitional government made up of a mixture of the regime’s men and oppositionists, without any mention of the future of the regime and its leader.
What is the secret word that caused this big change in the US stand and imposed this sudden retreat and shift from the military options that were put on the table before to diplomatic options to reach a political solution through negotiations between the rival parties that have resorted to weapons and bloody confrontations throughout the past two years?
This secret word is made up of seven letters, Israel, in addition to the fear for Israel’s existence within safe and stable borders, ridding it of the specter of war, removing the biggest danger that faces it, which is chaos, and the fear that Syria might become a base for Al-Qa`ida.
The Russian and US leaders might disagree over the regime of President Al-Asad and whether its continuation will be useful or not. However, they are in agreement on a common enemy, the jihadic Islam, which inflicted on them humiliating defeat in Afghanistan (the United States at the hands of Taliban and Al-Qa`ida and Russia at the hands of the Afghan mujahideen, and the United Statesa(euro)(TM) defeat in Iraq). And we should not forget Israel’s defeat in south Lebanon in 2006 and its failure to achieve victory in its war on the Gaza Strip late in 2008 because of the resistance factions’ steadfastness….
(Description of Source: London Al-Quds al-Arabi Online in Arabic — Website of London-based independent Arab nationalist daily with strong anti-US bias; URL: http://www.alquds.co.uk/)
There seems little doubt that the Obama administration took a big step back from the brink in Moscow this week, and that rumors of an American push to arm the rebels are, in the light of this diplomacy, overblown.