Putin pitches Grand Alliance against Daesh/ ISIL, but Syria Rebels want al-Assad Gone

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The Russian Federation is a key player in Syria, and backer of the dictatorial government of Bashar al-Assad. Moscow on Wednesday and Thursday attempted some diplomacy, however, welcoming a delegation of Syrian rebels against the authoritarian al-Assad in Damascus.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said just before his meeting with delegation leader Khaled al-Khoah, head of the opposition Syrian Naional Coalition:

“We are sincerely interested in helping all Syrians unite around the pivotal task of preserving their country to maintain stability in the Syrian Arab Republic, and prevent its transformation into something resembling a seedbed of terrorism and suchlike threats . . . Everyone has an interest in putting up a barrier to terrorism, everyone has an interest in the speediest political resolution of the crisis in Syria on the basis of the Geneva communique, and most importantly now, to transform this into practical, coordinated actions . . .”

h/t BBC Monitoring

Deutsche Welle, the German equivalent of the US NPR, put it more bluntly.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Lavrov offered the Syria rebels the opportunity to join a grand regional alliance against Daesh (ISIL, ISIS), including Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Kurds.

Al-Khoja, however, refused the offer. He said, “We completely agree that it is necessary to retain the Syrian state and the state institutions in the country,” he told TASS. “With regard to the responsibility for what is going on in the country, for the chaos that prevailed – the responsibility for this rests with the current regime.”

“Neither the head of the Syrian regime nor any citizens of the country who spill the blood of the Syrian people should be given any role in the transitional governing body. . .” RIA Novosti news agency quoted Khawjah as saying.
h/t BBC Monitoring

Putin’s dream of a grand alliance against Daesh is implausible, since most actors in Syria a more afraid of the government of al-Assad than of the ragtaq jihadis in Daesh. Al-Assad’s forces have imprisoned and tortured thousands, and have been dropping barrel bombs indiscriminately on towns and cities controlled by the rebels, a major war crime.

Saudi foreign minister Adel Jubeir also met with Russian officials on Wednesday, and Jubeir rejected the grand coalition vision out of hand. First of all, al-Assad must go, he is alleged to have declared once again that al-Assad must go.

Russia has long had a problem with radical Islam in Chechnya, in its own territory. That is one reason it is supporting al-Assad against the rebels.

The whole episode shows that different priorities of Middle Eastern and American leaders. For the Syrian rebels, Daesh is a distraction while the great and evil enemy is al-Assad.

So the Russian plan crashed and burned. But such diplomatic meetings among principals in a conflict are a good in themselves. At some point, when the factions have burned themselves out with battle fatigue, a plausible plan for compromise will emerge.

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Related video:

RT: “Lavrov: Ousting Assad militarily equals ISIS taking over Syria”

7 Responses

  1. As long as religion is the dominant force in the lives of the middle east there will be cruelty. I equate religion with a form of mental illness and extreme religiosity is extreme mental illness. Might may not make right but without Russia,China, USA and UK working together for peace there will not be peace and the cruelties will facilitate from side to side and faction to faction.
    Thanks to Juan Cole for much info that is hard to find with anything close to his “objectivity”.

  2. The Saudis are not willing to cooperate so it’s no surprise that the SNC is out. The Russians aren’t supporting the SNC financially and militarily. Khoja’s decision was made by his patrons in Riyadh and elsewhere, who have made the calculation that Daesh is at present a nuisance that can be largely dealt with after Assad. I don’t think we should assume that Turkey is ready to be part of any alliance with Assad either.

    What worries me most, though, is the second part of the SNC head’s statement: “Neither the head of the Syrian regime nor any citizens of the country who spill the blood of the Syrian people should be given any role in the transitional governing body. . .” Does this mean closing off the Alawites and Christians who have stuck with the Assad regime from being represented in a new government? Is the next step the kind of social cleansing we saw in Iraq?

  3. Thomas Pierret

    Don’t count on battle fatigue it’s a 0-sum game. The day Asad compromises, he’s dead. His regime is incompatible with power-sharing

  4. So, the Syrian rebels want the “Assad Regime” gone? Well FARC the Goal Dumb Syrian rebels. If they want the “Assad Regime” gone, let them gone it themselves with zero outside assistance.

    Once again I say: the US should do a 180 and join Russia, China, Iran and Hezbollah in helping the Syrian Arab Republic and the Syrian Arab Army to crush, smash and exterminate the Saudi-Gulfie Sunni-Salafi Jihadista rebellion in a very conclusive manner. We should help the SAR kill as many people as it takes to stop the rebellion once and for all. Then the “Assad regime” will stop “killing civilians”. They aren’t doing it for fun. They are doing it for reasons of strictly bussiness. And as soon as the rebellion is exterminated, then the SAG can stop fighting and killing.

    Lavrov’s invitation to see sense and fight the right people
    offers us a chance to stop supporting the wrong people.

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