[Marxism] Egypt dictator, Putin and US all trying to save Assad

Michael Karadjis mkaradjis at gmail.com
Thu Nov 13 07:16:29 MST 2014

Russia, Egypt propose formation of Syrian transitional government

Published Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Alongside the plan by the United Nations (UN) envoy to Damascus to 
freeze the conflict in Aleppo in order to prevent the city from falling 
into the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Moscow and 
Cairo are preparing for a conference between the Syrian regime and the 
opposition in the hope of bringing them together in a transitional 
government that “fights terrorism.”

It is almost confirmed that Russia will invite the Syrian government and 
part of the Syrian opposition to a conference in Moscow entitled Moscow 
I instead of the Geneva III conference. According to news coming out of 
Moscow, the plan – prepared in coordination between the Russian Foreign 
Ministry, Egyptian authorities and the UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de 
Mistura – calls for inviting two delegations for a dialogue in the 
Russian capital.

The first is the Syrian government delegation headed by Deputy Prime 
Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Walid al-Muallem. The second 
delegation will include opposition figures such as former head of the 
opposition Syrian National Coalition Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, head of the 
People’s Will Party, former Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil, a number 
of figures who left the Coalition, the National Coordination Committee 
and the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party headed by Saleh Muslim 
whose units are fighting ISIS in northern and eastern Syria.

The government is to include representatives of the regime and 
opposition figures, such as Khatib and Jamil, and to be led by an 
“unprovocative” figure. According to Russian and UN sources, the agenda 
of the conference to be held between the two sides includes establishing 
a transitional Syrian government with extensive powers while maintaining 
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s authority over the army and security 
institutions. The government is to include representatives of the regime 
and opposition figures, such as Khatib and Jamil, and to be led by an 
“unprovocative” figure. The mission of the government will include 
creating a constituent body, either elected or appointed, that will 
radically amend the Syrian constitution. About two years after 
establishing the transitional government, parliamentary elections can 
take place followed by a presidential election that Assad can run in.
The Russians and the Egyptians are counting on the fact that the goal of 
this initiative is to push the political process forward. They believe 
that fighting terrorism is currently a priority in Syria and that the 
success of this process requires mobilizing the greatest possible number 
of national forces to confront ISIS, al-Nusra Front and other 
al-Qaida-style organizations.

According to the sources of the parties involved in preparing for the 
Moscow 1 conference, stopping the progress of terrorist forces in Syria 
must be done quickly without waiting for the results of the air strikes 
by the Western Coalition. Russian and Egyptian officials believe it is 
necessary to preserve the structure of the Syrian army which will 
eventually accommodate thousands of officers and soldiers who fled or 
who failed to report to duty at their bases or defectors who did not 
join al-Qaeda-style organizations. The army is to also accept in its 
ranks fighters who will take part in fighting ISIS, al-Nusra and other 
such organizations.

Moscow and Cairo contacted a number of opposition political and partisan 
figures and received delegations from inside and outside Syria, 
including tribal delegations that represent major clans in northern and 
eastern Syria. Russia and Egypt want to ensure support for this dialogue 
by the largest possible number of Syrians.
UN sources believe that Assad will accept this initiative but there is a 
need to convince his ally Iran. Syrian sources, however, deny that, 
stressing that dialogue between Moscow and Damascus in this regard has 
not reached a final conclusion yet.

Russia, US, both want Syria rebels to join talks with Assad
Two powers mulling initiative for a transitional government in Damascus 
that includes wider range of rebel factions, thus diluting role of the 
Western-backed opposition.

By Zvi Bar'el | Nov. 11, 2014 | 6:56 PM
By Haaretz | Nov. 12, 2014 | 10:49 PM
The message received at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia on Sunday 
was depressing: Forces from the Nusra Front had routed two other 
militias, Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, to take 
over the Syrian town of Jabal al-Zawiya, in Idlib province. These two 
militias are U.S. protégés – armed, trained and funded by the CIA. The 
fleeing militiamen abandoned their U.S.-supplied arms and other military 
gear, and the Nusra Front picked up the spoils.

The Nusra Front is affiliated with Al-Qaida and officially listed as a 
terrorist organization by Washington. But unlike the Islamic State (also 
known as ISIS or ISIL), Nusra enjoys the support of Syrian civilians in 
the areas it controls, especially since these areas have been attacked 
by U.S. warplanes. In Syria, Washington can easily discern a development 
that is familiar to it from Iraq and Afghanistan: The moment U.S. planes 
attack, America is seen as an enemy.

But Jabal al-Zawiya is just one of many loci of fighting in Syria that 
are currently causing the map of territory controlled by the 
approximately 1,000 rebel militias to shift like a kaleidoscope. The 
Western-backed Free Syrian Army is thought to control no more than 2 
percent of the country. Another 45 percent is controlled by the Syrian 
regime, and the rest is divided among the Kurds in the north, the 
Islamic State in the northeast and Nusra and its ilk everywhere else.

Washington has long since understood that the FSA alone – even in 
cooperation with the Syrian Revolutionaries Front and the Islamic Front, 
both of which are comprised of several allied militias – can’t win the 
war in Syria. The $500 million Congress approved to expand training for 
these militias is a drop in the ocean. Moreover, weeks are likely to 
pass before the training even begins, and months before its effects 
begin to be felt.

But the inadequate arms supply isn’t the only source of tension between 
the FSA and the United States. When America recently focused its 
airstrikes on the Kurdish town of Kobani, the FSA unsuccessfully urged 
it to attack near Aleppo as well, for fear the Islamic State would try 
to capture the city. And when America asked the FSA to aid the battle in 
Kobani, it refused, saying its forces were already stretched too thin 
and it preferred to defend Aleppo.

Aleppo Province is crucial to both the regime, which controls part of 
it, and the rebels. UN envoy Staffan de Mistura is now trying to broker 
a cease-fire there, but the effort seems likely to fail, just as 
previous cease-fire efforts have.

Meanwhile, Russia is trying to advance a political dialogue between the 
regime and the rebels. According to Syrian reports, U.S. Secretary of 
State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who met 
recently in Beijing, agreed that this dialogue should also include 
opposition groups active inside Syria. This is a new American position 
which indicates that Washington no longer sees the Syrian National 
Coalition – the largest opposition group operating outside of Syria – as 
the rebels’ sole representative.

This turnabout in Washington’s position is likely to award 
representative status to groups within Syria that are willing to 
dialogue with the regime – and not only to them. The SNC’s former 
leader, Moaz al-Khatib, who once conditioned any national dialogue on 
the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad, is now willing to sit 
alongside regime representatives at the conference Russia is planning. 
His new precondition is that the regime release some 160,000 prisoners 
and detainees, and renew the passports of Syrian exiles. The regime is 
also apparently willing to send representatives to the conference, who 
date hasn’t yet been set.

The details of the Russian initiative haven’t been finalized, but it 
will apparently recycle Russia’s proposals from two earlier 
international conferences in Geneva, both of which ended without 
results. These proposals call for setting up a transitional government, 
holding new presidential elections, and forming a new government that 
includes representatives from “all” opposition factions. In other words, 
the role of the Western-backed opposition would be diluted.

Officially, Washington continues to declare that Assad has “lost his 
legitimacy” and therefore doesn’t deserve to remain president. But 
recognition of the fact that the Syrian opposition isn’t capable of 
nominating a suitable candidate – and, more importantly, isn’t capable 
of winning the war, either – may prompt a turnabout on the question of 
Assad’s legitimacy as well, should the opposition within Syria decide 
not to oppose his continued tenure, at least during the transitional 

The existence of this possibility also stems from the strategic shake-up 
caused by the Islamic State, which is now defined as the principal, if 
not only target against which America is prepare to use military force. 
Even the airstrikes on Syrian oil facilities in the Raqqa region that 
had been captured by the Islamic State weren’t viewed as attacks on the 
Syrian regime per se, rather as part of the battle to block the Islamist 
organization’s sources of funding. That’s also why Russia and Iran have 
maintained diplomatic radio silence in the face of these attacks. Had 
similar strikes been carried out before the Islamic State captured the 
Iraqi city of Mosul in June, they might have sparked a Russian or 
Iranian military response.

Thus so far, the battle against the Islamic State is being perceived as 
a battle to save Iraq, even though the extremist group poses no less of 
a threat to Syria. This view turns the diplomatic battle being waged 
against Assad into a secondary issue – and might also end up saving his 

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