Has Russia Flipped With Regard To Syria? Clinton Says “Yes” – OpEd


Hillary Clinton says that Russia is ready to turn on Assad in what is a potential “turning point” in the conflict. This is the third or fourth time she has insisted that Russia is prepared to discuss a post-Assad Syria and the modalities of regime-change. In the past, these announcements have been premature and designed to shame the Russians into dumping Damascus. Will this time be different? Has Russia concluded that Assad is losing it? Addendum: Since writing this Russia has responded that it rejects an ‘external solution’ for Syria and that Syrians should decide the fate of President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian authorities continue to insist that they will never turn the country over to the Muslim Brotherhood or form a coalition government with rebels. They are ready to fight to the end to save the country from Islamists – at least that is what they are saying to friends. They seem undaunted by Russian posturing. This all means that we are unlikely to see any big breakthroughs anytime soon. Russian authorities must be getting nervous about Assad’s strategy and staying power – all the same what can they do but try to create avenues for a Syrian soft landing? Damascus is unlikely to take their nudging seriously for some time. The high-powered conference is probably meaningless at this point, as Russia will most likely continue to insist on “loyal opposition” joining in a transitional government packed with Assad loyalists – a non-starter for both Assad and opposition figures.

China has also agreed to encourage the formation of a “transitional government” in a June 30 meeting of World leaders. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia have been excluded from the meeting. This change of strategy among Syria’s allies takes place as frequent bombings and opposition attacks have rocked downtown Damascus, forcing President Assad to announce that Syria has entered into a “real state of war.”

“Not one drop of petrol” has been available in Aleppo for a week now, friends lament. Media sources report that three Iranian gas carriers have sailed to Syria with gas shipments, but that will be a drop in the bucket. All the taxi services have come to a stand-still in Aleppo. Friends say they are willing to pay ten-times the amount of a liter of gas for their car but there just isn’t any. They are stranded in the homes. Those who have moved out to villas in the suburbs are really at a loss because they cannot walk down town or to go shopping. A blue bottle of cooking gas in Damascus goes for 4,000 pounds or about 50 dollars.It is only a matter of time before electricity stops all together and food becomes scarce. Transportation will be disrupted and supplies irregular around the country.

The economic situation in Syria continues to deteriorate as Syrians close to Assad recognize that he is incapable of managing or finding a way out the crises.

The problem is in the details. No one can imagine how a transition would work.

Syria Comment - Joshua Landis

Joshua Landis maintains Syria Comment and teaches modern Middle Eastern history and politics and writes on Syria and its surrounding countries. He writes “Syria Comment,” a daily newsletter on Syrian politics that attracts some 3,000 readers a day. It is widely read by officials in Washington, Europe and Syria. Dr. Landis regularly travels to Washington DC to consult with the State Department and other government agencies. He is a frequent analyst on TV and radio.

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