Russia’s military intervention in Syria is proving a decisive turning point in stabilising the government of Bashar al-Assad, while racking up serious defeats against the sundry extremist mercenary groups. That is the assessment of US top military officer General Joseph F Dunford. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Senate Armed Services Committee this week: «The balance of forces right now are in Assad’s advantage».
As the Los Angeles Times noted, Dunford’s assessment «appeared to contradict upbeat assessments by the White House last month that indicated Assad’s government had suffered a series of military losses and was losing control».
Meanwhile, in a hasty diplomatic foray, US Secretary of State John Kerry managed to get Washington’s regional allies to attend talks in Paris and Vienna to discuss a political solution to the four-year-old Syrian conflict. Among the attendees were Britain, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates. At Russia’s insistence over Saudi objections, Iran was invited to the high-level discussions – the first time that Tehran has been admitted to the table.
An Associated Press report carried by the Huffington Post gave Kerry’s shuttle diplomacy a positive spin, saying: «…all previous international mediation efforts have done nothing to stop the fighting, and Kerry is trying to unite all sides with influence in the Arab country around a common vision of a peaceful, secular and pluralistic Syria governed with the consent of its people».
But that’s AP being economical with the truth. As Moscow has previously noted, the internationally brokered Geneva Communiqué in the summer of 2012 had already established the principle of «a peaceful, secular and pluralistic Syria governed with the consent of its people». Why the fighting has not stopped over the ensuing three years from the Geneva accord is because Washington and its regional allies did not desist from their covert war for regime change in Syria to oust President Assad.
One wonders therefore what is to be gained by rehashing old diplomatic ground when Washington and its allies are still insisting on regime change – in contravention of the stated principle of «Syria governed with the consent of its people»?
Admittedly, Washington and London have dialled back on their erstwhile insistence that Assad «must go». They are holding out the possibility now of a transition period to a new government in Damascus during which Assad might still retain power. France, on the other hand, appears to be still implacably demanding that the Syrian leader has to stand down. On that score, Paris shares the same hardline position of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Arab states.
Iran, a staunch ally of Assad, has sided with Russia in its view that the issue of governance in Syria is the sovereign prerogative of the Syrian people. The Russian position and that of Iran is wholly consistent with the Geneva Communiqué.
That is why renewed talk of «elections» in Syria by the various parties attending the Vienna summit must be handled with caution. If Washington and its allies were sincere about a political resolution to the conflict then why don’t they reaffirm their commitment to the Geneva Communiqué?
What objective is being served by re-working that accord with some new condition of elections to be held? After all, Syria held presidential elections in June 2014, which were won resoundingly by Assad. So why should war-torn Syria be compelled to conduct an unprecedented new round of elections? It sounds like an external demand for a re-run, during which foreign powers can perhaps pull of a «colour-style» revolution to achieve the result that they want: regime change.
Assad during his meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week clearly said that his administration is willing to engage with all political opponents. However, quite reasonably, the Syrian president said that the order of priority was for his country to defeat the threat of foreign-backed subversion.
The astounding demand by Washington’s allies in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Arab absolute monarchies for «free elections» to be held in Syria is perhaps the most salient giveaway that the renewed diplomatic thrust belies their real and only agenda. Namely, regime change in Syria.
It would appear that what the Washington axis is striving for is to achieve by political means what it failed to do by covert military means. By engaging Russia and Iran in diplomacy, the question is: are the foreign enemies of Syria attempting to set up a political framework in order to undermine the legitimacy of the Syrian government?
Russia’s bold military intervention in Syria has turned the tables on the US-led foreign conspiracy to overthrow the Damascus government. The latest assessment by US top general Joseph F Dunford is testimony to that. And that would explain why Washington and its allies are inclined now – in spite of their belligerence – to engage with Russia and Iran over Syria.
In short, the Western axis is not be trusted. It has devastated Syria with a war that has claimed 250,000 lives and turned half the population into refugees. The axis has absolutely no moral right to impose political conditions on a future Syria. Indeed, in a sane world these same powers should be threatened with criminal prosecution for the murderous destruction they have wrought through their varying support for extremist mercenaries in Syria.
Syria, Russia and Iran have the upper hand, legally, morally, politically and militarily. Why should they accede to any demands from Washington and its allies who refuse to abide by what is already agreed upon in the Geneva Communiqué from three years ago? These powers are merely demonstrating, cynically, the maxim of Prussian military theoretician Karl Von Clausewitz. War is a simply an extension of policy by other means, wrote Clausewitz. The same applies in reverse for Washington and its acolytes: politics is just another form of war against Syria.
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.