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West Changes Policy In Syria As Russia’s Power Rises – OpEd

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By Mohyeddin Sajedi

A political analyst says the West’s change of policy vis-à-vis Syria has handed Moscow the opportunity to take center stage in this regard.

In an interview with Le monde , French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe expressed regret over the allegiance of the Syrian Christians to their president Bashar al-Assad. Juppe said while the Catholic and Orthodox religious organizations have tied their fate to Assad, they should realize that they will have a better future awaiting them under the umbrella of democracy.

It is not only the Christians but also the Alawites, Druzes, and a majority of Sunnis who are against any violent means of change in their country. None of Syria’s senior clerics have so far stood against Assad.

Bashareh al-Raee, Archbishop of Maroon Christians in Lebanon, told Juppe last year that the collapse of the Syrian regime would weaken the Christians in the Middle East and that the West is making a grave mistake by seeking to empower the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis in Syria. Neither France’s foreign minister nor its president took al-Raee’s stance seriously. The recent blast near a church in the Northern city of Halab, however, might have forced them to think again.

The “Free Syrian Army”, an organization consisting of the defected Syrian military personnel plus the armed members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis, are the chief suspects of the recent bombing in Damascus and Halab. While the “Free Syrian Army” and the “National Council” refute any involvement in these acts of terror, it is difficult to find anyone who will embrace the accusations leveled by these groups that Damascus was behind these massacres. If these groups were not responsible for the explosions, then the question is who will benefit from these measures other than the Free Syrian Army and the National Council?

Western intelligence sources testify to the fact that the so-called Free Syrian Army is not an organized institution and its members do not operate in a centralized manner in Syria. In fact, some of its units act on their own initiatives to plan and execute such lethal operations without seeking orders from their superiors in Turkey.

Of course, not all of Assad’s opposition can be summed up in the mold of these groups. According to Juppe, there is a rift between domestic and foreign opposition and efforts by the West and Arab states have not succeeded in uniting them. The prowess and unison of the Syrian Army is another factor sustaining the Assad regime. So far, no minister, high-ranking diplomat or general in Syria has distanced himself from Assad.

This situation has caused regional and international powers to review their policies. Perhaps, the biggest mistake of the West, Turkey, and EU was their assumption that the situation in Syria is similar to Libya. As a result, deposing Assad from power in the shortest possible time became their most important demand.

The French foreign minister, who will be replaced if President Sarkozy loses in the presidential elections, interprets this mistake as such: The Arab League’s plan (which was accepted by EU and formed the basis of a later Security Council resolution which was vetoed by Russia and China) did not mean to oust Assad from power, but clearly wanted the Syrian president to step down letting his vice president to negotiate the transitional period.

Nabil al-Arabi, the new secretary-general of the Arab League who initially followed Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s positions on Syria, has owned up to the weak performance of his organization in Syria. He said even the opposition knows that the Arab League cannot do anything against the Syrian government because it is incapable of military intervention.
During Kofi Annan’s recent visit to Damascus, he added, nothing has been said about the ouster of Assad…. “Neither the Arab League, nor the UN are qualified to officially recognize the Syrian National Council.”

Kofi Annan represents secretaries-general of the UN and Arab League and has urged the Syrian government and the opposition to reach an understanding. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Nabil al-Arab, secretary-general of the Arab League, have already proposed that Assad should step down. Now, it is not clear how their representative may find a political solution as a result of which Assad will remain at the top of the power pyramid.

This contradiction may indicate that the West is withdrawing from its positions taken in the past-year. That withdrawal will allow Russia to enter the political scene of Syria more powerfully. The US and EU seem to have reached the conclusion that Russia should be given more time. Delaying further discussions at the UN Security Council on a new resolution may be a sign of this policy. More importantly, the draft proposed by the US does not require Assad to step down.

Russia is also increasing criticism of Damascus and the slow pace of Syrian reforms in order to appease the West. Kremlin leaders know that failure of Kofi Annan’s mission will be failure of their diplomacy in Syria. That disappointment will only lead to a repetition of the Libyan model.

Political experts believe that the US and EU have preferred to give more room to Russia to continue political efforts aimed at solving the Syrian crisis because they believe that those efforts are doomed and Moscow will join them at the end.

The Arab League has frequently proven its inability in solving the crisis in a member state. The organization’s inability will take the Syrian crisis to a new level of clash of interests among big global powers. Deployment of NATO missile shield in Turkey is already threatening the interests of one of those powers; that is, Russia.

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Press TV is a 24-hour English language global news network owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). Its headquarters are located in Tehran, Iran. Press TV carries news analysis, documentary talk shows and sports news worldwide with special focus on West Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

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