US has caved in to Russia over Assad and Syria
THE CLOSING weeks of 2015 have seen the first signs of a potential power-shift over the Syrian war. The most obvious manifestation of this was the tacit agreement of the US to accept a political solution in Syria without President Bashar Assad’s departure.
While both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry continue to insist that Mr Assad has no future in post-war Syria, they have agreed to a UN Security Council resolution that does not mention him. They have also made it clear to the opposition groups that will be involved in the talks taking place in 2016 that insisting Assad goes is a “non-starter”. Their capitulation has been a diplomatic victory for Vladimir Putin, who has so far seen mixed results from his high- profile intervention in Syria. On the ground, Russia’s military deployment to Syria has prevented Assad from falling but failed to regain large swathes of territory lost to the rebels or Daesh.
It has also come at a cost. In November, Turkey shot down a Russian Sukhoi fighter-bomber, killing one of its crew. There have been other Russian losses but, for now, these are being hidden from the public back home.
Far more serious casualties have been sustained by Russia’s allies. Iran, which has lost dozens of soldiers, is already pulling back much of its contingent. Hizbollah has lost an estimated 1,400 fighters, and thousands more have been injured.
Russia, however, has achieved its main objectives: international recognition for its central role in Syria; a permanent foothold in the Middle East, including its port at Tartus; and world attention deflected away from eastern Ukraine.
The West is now focused on the threat of Daesh, rather on Assad, despite the fact that the Caliphate is