Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 25.05.18

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • “The Price for Peace in Syria”
  • Al Monitor: What did Putin mean by withdrawing ‚foreign armed forces‘ from Syria?
  • Al Monitor: Turkey’s de-escalation efforts around Idlib come with risks.
  • Statements following Russian-Syrian talks (att.)
  • Ukraine Declares ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation in the Donbas’ Officially Over: What Does That Mean?
  • ‚Not a Problem‘: Austrian Energy Giant Defends ‚Dependence on Russia‘
  • Egypt and Ethiopia Smooth Tensions Over Nile Dam.
  • Andrey Kortunov (Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member)
  • -> Where Are U.S.–Russia Relations Headed?
  • -> SCO: The Cornerstone Rejected by the Builders of a New Eurasia?

Massenbach* Reuters / Der Tagesspiegel, Berlin:

  • Wladimir Putin: Europa soll für Syriens Aufbau zahlen –

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel pocht beim Treffen mit Russlands Präsidenten Wladimir Putin für Syrien auf einen UN-Friedensprozess.

Europa muss nach Ansicht des russischen Präsidenten Wladimir Putin beim Wiederaufbau Syriens helfen, wenn die Flüchtlinge dorthin zurückkehren sollen. Das Thema des Wiederaufbaus müsse entpolitisiert werden, forderte er nach einem Treffen mit Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel am Freitag im russischen Sotschi. Putin kritisiert bereits seit Längerem die Haltung Europas, wonach der Westen sich auf humanitäre Hilfe in Syrien beschränkt und kein Geld für den Wiederaufbau der Landes zur Verfügung stellt, solange Präsident Baschar al Assad an der Macht ist. Assad hatte wenige Stunden vor der Merkel-Visite Gespräche mit Putin in Sotschi geführt.

Aleppo – 2018

Merkel betonte erneut, dass der UN-Friedensprozess für Syrien vorangetrieben werden müsse. Aktuell wird in zwei weiteren Foren nach einer Lösung für das Bürgerkriegsland gesucht: in den Gesprächen der sogenannten Small Group, an denen unter anderem die USA, Großbritannien, Saudi-Arabien und Deutschland beteiligt sind, und in den Astana-Verhandlungen unter Führung Russlands. Der Westen bemüht sich, die unterschiedlichen Prozesse langfristig wieder unter dem Dach der Vereinten Nationen zu bündeln. „Es geht jetzt darum, in den nächsten Schritten auch wirklich eine gemeinsame Agenda zu haben, die dann in den jeweiligen Gruppen auch behandelt werden kann“, sagte Merkel.

Besorgt äußerte sich die Kanzlerin über das sogenannte Dekret Nummer Zehn in Syrien. Danach können Menschen, die sich nicht in einer bestimmten Frist in Syrien melden, ihre Wohnungen und Häuser verlieren. „Das ist natürlich eine sehr schlechte Nachricht für alle, die eines Tages wieder nach Syrien zurückkehren wollen“, sagte Merkel. „Darüber werden wir noch intensiver sprechen und Russland bitten, seinen Einfluss geltend zu machen, dass das von Assad nicht gemacht wird, denn das wäre eine große Barriere für eine Rückkehr. Deshalb muss verhindert werden, dass da Fakten geschaffen werden.“

Merkel und Putin wollen an der Nord-Stream-2-Pipeline festhalten

Merkel und Putin wollen trotz des Drucks der USA an der umstrittenen Erdgas-Pipeline Nord Stream 2 durch die Ostsee festhalten. Beide versuchten, Sorgen Kiews zu zerstreuen, nach Inbetriebnahme der Trasse gingen Transiteinnahmen für die Ukraine verloren. Putin kündigte an, der Transit solle nicht beeinträchtigt werden. Er schränkte jedoch ein: „Die Lieferungen werden fortgesetzt, wenn dies wirtschaftlich begründet und sinnvoll ist für alle Beteiligten.“

Merkel betonte, es sei von strategischer Bedeutung, dass der Transit weitergehe. Deutschland sei bereit, sich zu engagieren. Die Frage sei, welche Garantien die Ukraine erhalte. Bereits Anfang der Woche war Wirtschaftsminister Peter Altmaier zu Gesprächen über Nord Stream 2 zwischen Moskau und Kiew gependelt.

Es war Merkels erster Besuch in Russland seit Mai 2017. Das deutsch-russische Verhältnis ist gespannt, seit Russland sich 2014 die ukrainische Halbinsel Krim einverleibt hat und Separatisten in der Ostukraine unterstützt. Merkel drang darauf, Pläne für den Einsatz einer UN-Mission in der Ostukraine voranzutreiben. Putin erwiderte, die Außenminister beider Länder seien beauftragt worden, Ansätze für eine Blauhelmmission auszuarbeiten. (Tsp, Reuters)

https://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/treffen-mit-angela-merkel-wladimir-putin-europa-soll-fuer-syriens-aufbau-zahlen/22583352.html

https://de.reuters.com/article/syrien-russland-putin-idDEKCN1IJ1Y8

  • Statements following Russian-Syrian talks (att.)

Assad: ….As to economic cooperation, we noted the recent growth of Russian investment, Russian companies’ investments in various areas of the Syrian economy, and also discussed possible steps to further encourage Russian companies to invest in our country and take part in the reconstruction process…..

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/57488

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Ukraine Declares ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation in the Donbas’ Officially Over: What Does That Mean?

Adam Coffey – 16 May 2018

A recent change in the way Ukraine describes the separatist conflict on its territory is not just about branding; it is also about the search for a more successful strategy

The so-called Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO), run by Ukraine’s security forces for almost four years, has now officially come to an end. At first sight, this could be interpreted as the cessation of hostilities that have claimed the lives of over 10,000 people. Sadly, this is not the case, which became clear immediately after the announcement, with further injuries reported by both side. The ATO, however, has been replaced by a Joint Force Operation (JFO) that, far from being a mere rebranding exercise, hints at some important political and structural reforms. Ukraine may be prepared to move on from its hard-line stance on some of the key issues underlining the military confrontation.

A small but significant difference between the JFO and ATO is how the conflict area is now officially and legally classified. Since the start of the ATO in 2014, the conflict area to which it applies has been described officially in Ukrainian legislation and European declarations as ‘non-governmental-controlled areas’. The classification has stopped short of laying blame on the Russian efforts to destabilise eastern Ukraine and has inadvertently provided a boost to the Russian narrative that denies any connection between Russia proper and the separatists in Ukraine. This has changed under the new JFO classification, and the area is now formally described as ‘temporarily occupied territories in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions controlled by Russian occupation administration’. Switching the focus from the ‘terrorists’, or at least the separatist forces, and identifying Russian involvement in their stead sends a clear message that Ukraine not only remains determined about the reintegration of these regions, but that it also formally accuses Russia of fomenting the troubles.

The Minsk accords, concluded between the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany in 2015 in an effort to dampen the fighting, have only been partially implemented partly because of the complex challenge of agreeing on how to treat the separatists. Pardoning separatists, organising local elections, and ensuring that the Donbas enjoys a ‘special status’ enshrined in the Ukrainian constitution – all provisions of the Minsk agreements – are still considered by Ukrainian leaders as being steps too far for Kiev to undertake while Ukraine’s international borders are violated by Russia.

Ukraine’s argument has always been that its territorial integrity should take precedence over any ‘special’ administration measures that may be subsequently enforced. And, although the changes in the designation of the areas outside the Ukrainian government’s control will not affect the violence on the ground, they do clarify matters and put the blame of the rebellion, at least as far as the Ukrainian authorities are concerned, on Russia.

The introduction of the JFO also entails substantial command and control changes. Pervasive confusion in the beginning of the conflict, particularly the uprisings in key cities, resulted in the country’s main security agency, the Security Service of Ukraine, treating the separatists as a terror-related challenge, rather than a foreign intervention. But with the launch of the JFO, the Armed Forces of Ukraine now have control of the operation. From a military perspective, this makes perfect sense. Most of the combat operations conducted are not terrorist operations; they are combat engagements and therefore should be controlled as such.

It is expected that this designation change will assist with command and control tasks and render Ukrainian commanders more flexible and agile in their response. Post-Soviet armies are often mired in bureaucracy and overburdened with defunct command and control layers, so any fresh approach that results in a reduction in such baleful effects should be welcome.

Refashioning the Ukrainian operation in the east should have happened much earlier than it has. But it is also worth noting that, although the Ukrainian government is now ready to blame Russia for the rebellion, Kiev has also been careful not to imply that it is at war with Russia. So, although some of the ambiguity in the way Ukraine defines the conflict has now disappeared, a certain level of ambiguity is still being maintained.

Adam Coffey is a British Army Visiting Fellow at RUSI. Adam is an Army Officer who has recently returned from Ukraine as part of the UK’s Building Partner Capacity Operation.

The views expressed in this Commentary are the author’s, and do not reflect those of RUSI or the Ministry of Defence.

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From our Russian News Desk. (The views expressed are the author‘s own.)

Andrey Kortunov (Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member)

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Webinar on Effective Partnerships in Russia (Retail vs Distribution)

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Live Interview with Russian Market Distributor & Retailer

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Over 1,000 American firms of all sizes continue to do business in Russia, given its 142 million consumers, $27k+ GDP per capita (as measured in purchasing power parity), a growing middle class and highly educated and trained workforce.

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Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* ‚Not a Problem‘: Austrian Energy Giant Defends ‚Dependence on Russia‘

US President Donald Trump has reportedly asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel to withdraw its support for the Nord Stream 2 project and allegedly promised to negotiate a new US-EU trade deal. CEO of the Austrian energy giant OMV Rainer Seele doesn’t see a problem with dependence on the Russian gas, as, according to him, such dependence is mutual, DPA reported. At the same time, he slammed US efforts to undermine the Nord Stream 2 project.

"The interference of the US government clearly shows me that the realization of economic interests is achieved through sanctions," he said.

The OMV CEO expects that all the necessary approvals from the Danish, Swedish and Russian governments will be received by Gazprom by the end of the summer. Seele also warned against seeing Nord Stream 2 as a total replacement for pipelines going through Ukraine, as according to him, these would still be used for transit.

READ MORE: Berlin Responds to US Threats of Imposing Sanctions Against Nord Stream 2

OMV is a participant in the Nord Stream 2 project along with Russian Gazprom, French Engie, UK-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell, German Uniper and Wintershall. It is planned that the new double pipeline will deliver 55 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas a year to EU countries.

Earlier, The Wall Street Journal reported that US President Donald Trump had asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel during their meeting in April to withdraw Germany’s support for the Nord Stream 2 in exchange for a new trade deal with Europe.

READ MORE: Remaining Permits for Nord Stream 2 May Be Issued in Summer — Gas Concern’s Head

Russian President Vladimir Putin said after his negotiations with Merkel on May 18 that Nord Stream 2 is not intended to end the gas transit through Ukraine, saying that it will continue as long as it is economically viable.

https://sputniknews.com/business/201805201064622831-austrian-energy-giant-defends-dependence/

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Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* WSJ: Egypt and Ethiopia Smooth Tensions Over Nile Dam.

Officials report progress after months of acrimony over how the share the river’s waters.

May 16, 2018 10:23 a.m. ET

0 COMMENTS

CAIRO—Officials from Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan on Wednesday made progress after months of acrimony over how to share the waters of the Nile river, smoothing tensions in a conflict that has threatened to upset the political balance in the Horn of Africa.

The spat is pitting old power Egypt against a rising Ethiopia. Ethiopia is building a massive $4.2 billion dam on the Nile’s main tributary that Egypt, which depends on the Nile for its water supply, fears will divert too much water and place pressure on its agriculture.

The foreign ministers from Egypt and Ethiopia and Sudan’s water minister agreed at a meeting in Cairo to launch a joint scientific study of how quickly the dam being built by Ethiopia should be filled. The three signed a document calling for the leaders of the three countries to meet every six months.

“We have consulted and deliberated quite extensively as you have seen, which has led us to an understanding of the way forward,” said Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at the conclusion of the talks.

The positive note follows months of meetings in Cairo and Addis Ababa that all failed to yield consensus on how to break the deadlock.

Ethiopia started constructing the dam, which will be Africa’s biggest, in 2011 when Egypt was in the throes of the Arab Spring. The project, which is due to be completed next year, has been fully funded by Ethiopia and has become a national symbol of its economic and strategic ambitions.

Ethiopia last year was the world’s fastest-growing economy and is desperate for additional energy sources to power its plans to become a major manufacturer. The country also hopes to generate income by selling power from dam.

Ethiopia has dismissed Egypt’s fears that if the dam is as filled as quickly as Addis Ababa wants it could affect its agriculture. Officials criticize Cairo as clinging to colonial-era agreements that grant Egypt the vast majority of the Nile waters, despite the fact that the river largely emanates in and flows through Ethiopia. Sudan, wedged between the two, has seen its relationship with Egypt rapidly deteriorate.

Another high-level meeting on the dam is planned for July 3 and 4 in Cairo.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/egypt-and-ethiopia-smooth-tensions-over-nile-dam-1526480615?reflink=djem_Frontiers

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Middle East

Al Monitor: What did Putin mean by withdrawing ‚foreign armed forces‘ from Syria?

Putin’s diplomatic surge on Syria

Maxim Suchkov writes May 10 that “one shouldn’t be surprised to see a high-level visitor or two from Syria or Iran to Russia rather soon,” after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow the previous day.

So no surprise for Al-Monitor readers that both Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have since come calling in Russia.

Last week, we described in this column Vladimir Putin’s role as "go-to" mediator between Iran and Israel. The US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) may have, inadvertently, strengthened Putin’s hand. Moscow’s good offices are, for now, the only diplomatic venue available where both sides can pass messages and expect them to be faithfully delivered. Russian diplomacy has since shifted into even higher gear on Syria.

Hamidreza Azizi writes, “Iran’s decision not to widen the scope of its confrontation with Israel in Syria could be interpreted as another component of Tehran’s approach in the face of the West’s new activism. As such, Iran does not see any need for an escalation, since by maintaining close cooperation with Russia it sees the Israeli issue as something manageable down the road. This derives mostly from the view that if Russia finally takes new steps to enhance the Syrian military’s defense capabilities, and especially by providing it with S-300 air defense systems, Iranian forces in Syria would be far less likely to face Israeli attacks in the future. At the same time, Iran is trying not to provoke Moscow to take Israel’s side, thereby preserving a meaningful level of distance between the Russian and Israeli positions.”

Assad’s meeting with Putin in Sochi on May 17 came two days after diplomats from the Astana parties — Russia, Turkey and Iran — concluded their latest round of consultations on Syria. While the follow-through is what counts, the words coming out of the Putin-Assad summit reveal hints of a potential breakthrough on two fronts, as well as a needed boost for UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura.

Suchkov reports, “Arguably the most important outcome of the meeting is that Assad has finally embraced the need to form a committee tasked with drafting a Syrian Constitution. Assad had opposed the idea, for fear of eventually losing power or being traded off, ever since its adoption in January at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi. Moscow has advocated the idea as the best tool to navigate the conflict into the politico-diplomatic domain (and one that would allow it to maintain influence over the process).”

Assad said after meeting Putin, “We focused on the issue of the Constitutional Committee that should be established following the results of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress. We expect to start the corresponding work with the UN. I have confirmed to President Putin today that Syria will send the list of its delegates to the Constitutional Committee to discuss amendments to the current Constitution. It will be done as soon as possible."

Assad’s seemingly long-awaited concession to Russian efforts to establish a Constitutional Committee was not the only possible game changer. “The most intriguing takeaway from the meeting,” Suchkov reports, “are perhaps Putin’s remarks about the foreign military presence in Syria: ‚We proceed from the assumption that in view of the significant victories and success achieved by the Syrian army in its fight against terrorism, and the start of a more active phase of the political process, foreign armed forces will be withdrawing from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic.’”

What is not known is whether the Trump administration will recognize and seize the prospect of Russian mediation, at a time when Iran is on defense and the Syrian people may be catching a glimmer of hope that this terrible war may actually be winding down.

Al Monitor: Turkey’s de-escalation efforts around Idlib come with risks

Article Summary

Turkey has erected its final observation post in the Idlib region, but many unknowns and potential hazards remain.

REUTERS/Osman Orsal

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Turkey completed its final Syrian de-escalation military outpost May 16, wrapping up the project in Jisr al-Shughur, a town that abuts Turkey’s Akcakale border crossing and that is notorious as the local hub for Salafists and jihadis from Central Asia and the Xinjiang region of China.

With that effort, Ankara has fulfilled its promise to Iran and Russia — the other guarantors of the many peace negotiations held in Astana, Kazakhstan — to build 12 outposts virtually encircling Idlib; Turkey will continue to operate them as well. Now the Turkish army’s position separates pro-Iran armed groups and the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with one mechanized infantry company reinforced with armor at each of these outposts.

Turkey has the personnel of two mechanized infantry brigades reinforced with commando and military engineering detachments (about 1,300 soldiers in total) scattered in the north, east, south and southwest of Idlib, the hot zone that will determine when and where the operation achieves its goals west of the Euphrates River.

Establishing the de-escalation posts had always been a hot issue among Ankara, Moscow and Tehran. Moscow was eager for Ankara to finish the job, while Tehran has been the game spoiler, particularly during negotiations on how to share control of the zones in east and southeast Idlib. As stipulated by the trilateral accord reached at Astana, Turkey set up the outposts in the Sunni opposition-controlled parts of Idlib. Under the accord, Russia and Iran will have to put up similar observation posts on the turf controlled by Assad’s forces. These observation posts will thus constitute a security buffer between the opposition and Assad forces. But there have been no signs of Iran doing its part, and its delay in disciplining autonomous pro-Iran armed groups south of Aleppo has been annoying Ankara.

The Turkish army began setting up the de-escalation posts in October. The army now has troops deployed at: Salva village near Dana; Samaan village (Takle) and Aqil Mountain, both near Darat Izza; al-Eis near al-Hader; Tal Tukan village near Saraqib; Surman village near Maarat al-Numan; Anadan (Tal Tamurah) and Rashidin, both in western Aleppo; Zeytuna and Istabrak (very close to Jisr al-Shughur), both in southwestern Idlib; Morek (Tal as-Sawwan) in rural Hama; and Zawiyah in rural southern Idlib.

What is Ankara’s strategic rationale for establishing these outposts? With Moscow’s backing, Ankara seeks to deter any Iran-backed ground offensive by the Assad regime in northwest Syria and prevent a potential mass refugee movement. The outposts are also making Ankara’s military footprint in the north more visible, and therefore, protecting the Afrin region and the triangle formed by al-Bab, Jarablus and al-Rai beyond their geographic boundaries. For Moscow, Ankara’s fulfillment of this promise means pro-Iran and pan-Shiite armed groups deployed in southern Aleppo won’t be able to move in and fill the power vacuum in southern and southeastern Idlib.

Although the media haven’t said much about these observation posts, it is possible to say that they actually constitute a cross-border operation with even more ambiguities than Turkey’s Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations. Six of the 12 outposts are 35 kilometers (almost 22 miles) or more from Turkey’s border. The most distant one is 88 kilometers (55 miles) away. These outposts each have the manpower of only one military company, and so will have limited capability to resist if attacked. Bearing in mind that Turkey doesn’t have air superiority in the region, it won’t be easy to reinforce these scattered outposts from the air and ground, or to evacuate them.

Is there a risk that these outposts might be attacked? Turkish forces are under the protection of Russia, which controls the skies and the entire process, but there is continuing speculation over the status of Idlib and who will be controlling the city.

Pro-Assad forces could attack opposition forces in the Idlib region in coming weeks. We know that Assad forces, after clearing opposition forces from Damascus, Hama and Homs, have evacuated about 40,000 armed Sunni opposition fighters and their families to Idlib and other areas controlled by Turkey in northern Syria. Idlib’s population has doubled to about 3 million because of displaced people. Assad’s forces, which have completed most of their operations against opposition forces in and north of Damascus could now launch an operation to clear Idlib of opposition forces. Such an operation and the mass internal migration it would provoke could well be more than the Turkish outposts could handle. Despite Russian domination of the area, Turkey has to keep in mind the possibility of an accidental clash or the Assad regime acting on its own.

Another risk in Idlib is posed by the Salafi-jihadi armed groups linked to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham that control the city’s center. The responsibility Turkey has assumed at Idlib inevitably raises the issue of how Turkey’s relations with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham will develop. If that relationship sours, Turkish outposts will be the nearest targets for the jihadi group.

Turkey’s presence in Idlib deters pro-Assad groups and helps opposition groups survive against Assad forces. But the UN considers Hayat Tahrir al-Sham a terror organization, which could complicate the issue even more.

Finally, there are groups linked with al-Qaeda in the area, as well as the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, both of which could create yet another major headache for Turkey.

Two key issues will determine the fate of these Turkish outposts. One is how long Ankara can continue its de-escalation efforts if Iran begins meddling and whether Russia feels it must choose between backing Iran or Turkey. The other issue is whether Turkey can contain the tense situation around Idlib until the political transition begins — if ever.

Metin Gurcan is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Turkey Pulse. He served in Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Iraq as a Turkish military adviser from 2002 to 2008. After resigning from the military, he became an Istanbul-based independent security analyst. Gurcan obtained his PhD in 2016 with a dissertation on changes in the Turkish military over the preceding decade. He has published extensively in Turkish and foreign academic journals, and his book “What Went Wrong in Afghanistan: Understanding Counterinsurgency in Tribalized, Rural, Muslim Environments” was published in August 2016

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/05/turkey-syria-de-escalation-efforts-around-idlib-risky-1.html#ixzz5GGNSdTib

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*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

The National Interest: The Price for Peace in Syria Is Cooperation with Assad

Two unpleasant propositions about the lengthy civil war in Syria have been substantially absent from current policy discussions. It seems time to bring them forward and to take them seriously.

The first acknowledges that the forces of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad have pretty much won the war. As journalist Robin Wright noted recently, Assad has managed to “consolidate his hold over the majority of Syria” and now “controls all the major cities.” Grandstanding bombings devised to encourage the regime to kill with bullets and shrapnel rather than with gas are exercises in futility. As she concludes “Assad is . . . winning the war and the reality is that the military strike will not change that.”

And in February, a U.S. intelligence community report concluded that, “the Syrian opposition’s seven-year insurgency is probably no longer capable of overthrowing President Bashar al-Assad or overcoming a growing military disadvantage.”

The second proposition is a stark observation put forward in a think tank report in 2015 by Ambassador James Dobbins and his colleagues: “any peace in Syria is better than the current war.”

For those whose chief concern is the welfare of the Syrian people, the conclusion, however painful, should be obvious. The United States and other intervening states should work primarily to bring the suffering to a substantial close, and this likely means cutting off support to most rebel combatants in Syria and working with—perhaps even directly supporting—Assad and his foreign allies.

This would, of course, constitute a massive reversal in policy—as well as a grim admission that the Russians have been essentially right in the civil war. But, although a great many elements in the Syrian tragedy remain cloudy, it seems clear that foreign assistance to the rebels has simply had the result of prolonging, or systematically stoking, the disaster. For years, much of the fighting has consisted of the mindless lobbing of ordnance on civilian areas, a process that mainly creates misery and refugees. All, or just about all, present policy proposals concerning Syria would essentially perpetuate this dismal condition.

There is a risk, of course, that, once something of a peace has been secured, Assad’s forces will embark on murderous rampages against former enemies. But it is more likely that this danger can be effectively dealt with if the United States and other interveners are inside the tent rather than outside of it.

The country would be effectively partitioned, with pockets still controlled by various rebel groups from U.S.-supported Kurds to Islamist operatives. And there would also be Islamic State remnants to deal with. Following the Dobbins proposal, this condition might prevail for years as efforts are made to negotiate difficult settlements.

But the very considerable bulk of the country would be substantially pacified. As a result, many refugees might find it safe to return and to help rebuild their shattered country.

And it is clear that a considerable portion of Syrians prefer being in government areas rather than areas controlled by rebels who are often incoherent and vicious. Details are sketchy, but given the choice, two-thirds of civilian evacuees from rebel-held East Aleppo asked to settle in government areas, not in rebel-controlled areas.

One Aleppo professor, himself an opponent of the regime, estimates that in an election today, Assad would get more than 70 percent of the vote.

As early as 2014, Graham Fuller, a Middle East specialist and former vice chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council, pointed out that although Assad “is hardly an ideal ruler,” he “is rational, has run a longtime functioning state,” and scarcely represents a threat to the United States. Moreover, Assad is supported by many in Syria who “rightly fear” the “domestic anarchy” that might come after his fall. The lessons of Libya are clearly relevant here.

Fuller concluded that “The time has now come to bite the bullet, admit failure, and to permit—if not assist—Assad in quickly winding down the civil war in Syria.”

This suggestion was highly unfashionable at the time, and then, like the Dobbins assessment, it was overwhelmed for a while by hysteria over the rise of the vicious, if ultimately ratherridiculous, ISIS group. However, although the perspective remains very much a minority view, its time may well have come.

John Mueller is a political scientist at Ohio State University and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC.

http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-skeptics/the-price-peace-syria-cooperation-assad-25871

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see our letter on: http://www.massenbach-world.de/41259.html

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*

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02-13-18 Coats_National-Intelligence- Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community.pdf

2015 RAND_PE182-A Peace Plan for Syria.pdf

05-17-18 The Price for Peace in Syria Is Cooperation with Assad The National Interest B.pdf

05-22-18 A_Kortunov-Where Are U.S.-Russia Relations Headed.pdf

05-17-18 Statements following Russian-Syrian talks . President ofRussia.pdf

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