FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why the G7 Couldn’t Change Putin’s Mind on Assad, Even If They Wanted To

by

It is very unlikely that Russia will change its support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, despite calls to do so from foreign ministers from the G7 nations gathered in Italy in the aftermath of the use of poison gas in Syria and the US missile strikes.

Russia owes its return to great power status in the eyes of much of the world to its military intervention in Syria and will not want to change its previous stance. Mr Assad’s forces, which are backed by Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Shia militias from Iraq, are close to winning the civil war and it is doubtful if President Putin, even if he wanted to, could remove the Syrian leader from power.

Boris Johnson said that the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April had “changed everything fundamentally”. But on the contrary the balance of power on the ground in Syria is very much as it was before, and it is improbable that US policy will really switch from giving priority to eliminating Isis and al-Qaeda.

A problem in getting rid of Mr Assad as Syrian leader – as advocated in the past by the US, Britain and France – is that there is no reason to suppose that it would end the war in Syria or modify the savagery with which it is fought. Mr Assad leads one side in a civil conflict that believes that it would be slaughtered or forced to flee if the other side won. It would fight on, with or without his presence.

The other important aspect of the Syrian crisis that remains unchanged by the chemical attack is that, if Mr Assad and his forces were defeated, then the beneficiaries would be the Salafi-jihadi opposition. Isis and al-Qaeda-linked groups dominate the armed resistance to the Assad government even more firmly than they did a year ago.

The Italian foreign minister Angelino Alfano was more cautious than Mr Johnson about getting rid of Mr Assad, saying that decision should be left up to the Syrians. “I have to say, the Libya experiment did not go well,” said Mr Alfano, referring to the aftermath of the killing of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 after he was defeated by a Nato-backed opposition military campaign and the country collapsed into anarchy. “We are still paying the price.”

A further difficulty facing any insistence by G7 states that there be a political “transition” in Syria is that Russia is not Mr Assad’s only foreign ally. Prior to Russian military intervention in Syria in 2015, Iran was Mr Assad’s most important foreign supporter, sending military advisers and leading an axis of Shia powers and movements who see victory in the Syrian war as crucial to their very existence. Before the fall in the price of oil in in 2014, the Iraqi government gave significant financial assistance to Damascus.

It is still unclear how far President Trump’s policy in Syria has really changed from what it was before the 59 cruise missiles were fired last week at a Syrian airbase near the central city of Homs. Until then, Mr Trump’s policy in Syria and Iraq was much the same as that pursued by President Obama and seemed to be reaching a successful conclusion.

Isis is on the retreat in both Syria and Iraq, having lost three-quarters of the city of Mosul, its de facto Iraqi capital, in addition to other Iraqi cities which it once held. In Syria, Isis has lost most of the northern end of the Euphrates valley and is under severe pressure in Raqqa from the Syrian Democratic Forces in which the main military punching power comes from the Syrian Kurdish paramilitary forces backed by the devastating firepower of the US-led air coalition.

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
Bruce Dixon
White Liberal Guilt, Black Opportunism and the Green Party
Edward Hunt
Killing Civilians in Iraq and Syria
Matthew Kovac
Is the Flint Water Crisis a Crime Against Humanity?
Mark Harris
The Revolutionary Imagination: Rosa for Our Times
David Rosen
America’s Five Sex Panics
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia: the Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All
Jack Heyman
Class War on the Waterfront: Longshore Workers Under Attack
Kim C. Domenico
Marginalize This:  Turning the Tables on Neoliberal Triumphalism
Brian Cloughley
Trying to Negotiate With the United States
John Laforge
Activists Challenge US Nukes in Germany; Occupy Bunker Deep Inside Nuclear Weapons Base
Jonathan Latham
The Biotech Industry is Taking Over the Regulation of GMOs From the Inside
Russell Mokhiber
DC Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox Won’t Let Whistleblower Lawyer Lynne Bernabei Go
Ramzy Baroud
The Story Behind the Jerusalem Attack: How Trump and Netanyahu Pushed Palestinians to A Corner
Farzana Versey
The Murder of Muslims
Kathy Kelly
At Every Door
David W. Pear
Venezuela Under Siege by U.S. Empire
Maria Paez Victor
Venezuelan Opposition Now Opposes the People
Uri Avnery
Soros’ Sorrows
Joseph Natoli
The Mythos Meme of Choice
Clark T. Scott
High Confidence and Low Methods
Missy Comley Beattie
Glioblastoma As Metaphor
Ann Garrison
Organizing Pennsylvania’s 197: Cheri Honkala on Frontline Communities
Ted Rall
What Happened When I Represented Myself as My Own Lawyer
Colin Todhunter
Codex Alimentarius and Monsanto’s Toxic Relations
Graham Peebles
Europe’s Shameful Refugee Policy
Louis Proyect
Reversals of Imperial Fortune: From the Comanche to Vietnam
Stephen Cooper
Gov. Kasich: “Amazing Grace” Starts With You! 
Jeffrey Wilson
Demolish! The Story of One Detroit Resident’s Home
REZA FIYOUZAT
Billionaire In Panic Over Dems’ Self-Destruct
David Penner
The Barbarism of Privatized Health Care
Yves Engler
Canada in Zambia
Ludwig Watzal
What Israel is Really All About
Randy Shields
Matters of National Insecurity
Vacy Vlanza
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Through Eyes of an Activist for Palestine
Cesar Chelala
Dr. Schweitzer’s Lost Message
Masturah Alatas
Becoming Italian
Martin Billheimer
Lessons Paid in Full
Charles R. Larson
Review: James Q. Whitman’s “Hitler’s American Model”
David Yearsley
The Brilliance of Velasquez
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail