Russia, Iran: No Alternative to Assad
Nikolai BOBKIN | 18.09.2015 | OPINION

Russia, Iran: No Alternative to Assad

Syria is fighting the joint forces of foreign mercenaries and radical terrorist groups. They say the country is governed by Alawites who constitute a minority. The Sunni majority has become a hostage to extremists. Millions of Muslims have left the country to escape from self-appointed “saviors”.

According to the United Nations data, nearly 20% of Syrian population has fled the country to become refugees. Even the most irreconcilable opponents of Assad in the West have to admit that the Syrian regime has become one of the main forces to counter international terrorism in the region. There is no alternative to Assad and the West has to step back in view of this fact.                                  

The recent week has produced vivid examples of increased involvement of Europe in the conflict. France, Germany and Great Britain have started to talk about the need to rectify their policies. Certainly, it does not mean they support Damascus. As before, they emphasize the importance of intensification of the fight against the Islamic State on the territory of Syrian Arab Republic. But the voices are also raised in support of Western alliance joining forces with Moscow and Tehran. At last, they admit the obvious: no way can the “Syrian knot” be untied without Russia and Iran.

The French President Francois Hollande argues that it would be wrong to exclude Moscow and Tehran from the fight against the Islamic State.

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Bashar al-Assad could remain as Syrian president for up to six months during a transition process. According to the Hammond, he believes the United Kingdom is ready to join efforts on Syria with Russia and Iran.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the time is right to find a way to bring the parties involved to the table. This must include preparatory talks with and among crucial regional actors, including Iran.

In a guest article for the New York Times, Steinmeier said that until now all the efforts of international community to facilitate a political resolution have failed. According to him, “Against this backdrop, the recent agreement between Iran and the six world powers known as the P5+1 (the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia, plus Germany) opened a new window of opportunity for the region and possibly a chance to break the gridlock on Syria.”

What makes US European allies make such statements?

Of course, it has nothing to do with adopting an independent policy on the Middle East. Europe continues to trail behind the United States. Right after the nuclear deal was inked in Vienna this July, President Obama said he was ready to make Iran a party to the dialogue on Syria. “I do agree that we're not going to solve the problems of Syria unless there's buy-in from the Russians, the Iranians, the Turks, our Gulf partners,” the President admitted at a White House press conference.

The Moscow’s position is clear: the Syrian crisis has no military solution, it’s necessary to look for diplomatic ways to achieve national reconciliation. The negotiation process cannot make progress without Russia and Iran. No way a military success could be achieved anywhere without the participation of these two countries, be it in Syria, or Iraq. In Syria, Russia and Iran can join together to strengthen the Assad regime even without virtual support of the West.

It’s an open secret that Moscow supplies Damascus with arms. Tehran has never hidden the fact it delivers military aid to the Syrian government. Russia and Iran see no alternative to this policy. After Moscow made possible reaching the nuclear agreement with Iran, the West should have accepted the fact of Iran’s influence over Assad and stop ignoring the role of Tehran in the management of Syrian crisis.

Moreover, hardly anybody will put into question the fact that there has never been anything like “moderate” opposition in Syria, something the White House liked to talk so much about. Today violence and barbarismprevail in Syria. The Islamic State is not the only one to blame. All groups that make up the Syrian armed opposition are responsible.

Contrary to the facts, the United States has said that the scale of terrorists’ involvement in the Syrian war is exaggerated, despite the fact that the second largest Syrian opposition group Al Nusra pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda a long time ago.

Ahrar ash-Sham and Muslim Brotherhood, as well as smaller groups, are also extremists. The Syrian army and units of volunteers have to shoulder the main burden of war. The airstrikes delivered by USD-led coalition have little influence on the situation in general. That’s why Russia and Iran, the countries not directly involved in hostilities, help Syria to survive. It is obvious, that a regime change in Syria would lead to the emergence of the second Afghanistan ruled by the Taliban. It would pose a threat to the whole world.

Moscow and Tehran try to make Western opponents understand that the main threat does not come from Assad, but from the terrorists fighting to overthrow his regime. Iranian proposals include immediate seize-fire, formation of coalition government, introduction of amendments into the constitution and elections with the presence of international observers. Assad supported the Tehran’s initiative. It goes to show how stable the Syria-Iran relationship is. "We will sit down at any table with countries inside and outside the region," President Hassan Rouhani said when asked if Iran would discuss Syria with adversaries Saudi Arabia and the United States.

He does not mean separate deals. The supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said his country held bilateral talks only on the nuclear issue. Iran will not discuss global and regional issues with the United States. Iran believes that its role is to contribute to international efforts aimed at making the parties involved in the conflict sit at the round table. Tehran has no objections to the idea of holding preliminary talks with Saudi Arabia and Turkey, if need be.

Moscow and Tehran see eye to eye on the issue. No surprise, Russia and Iran agreed to jointly build refugee camps upon the request received from the Syrian government. Iran positively responded to Russia’s requests to provide air corridors for delivering humanitarian aid to Syria. In future, China may join the effort. Syria asked China to help it build humanitarian infrastructure. Unfortunately, it all irritates Washington. The United States finds it more important to maintain its hegemony in the region than address the real woes that beset the Middle East.

Tags: Syria 

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