Has Assad’s survival made him dispensable?

Has Assad’s survival made him dispensable?

Ewen MacAskill writes:

The US-led operation against Syria, which included the contributions from the UK and France, was a modest one, limited to a short, sharp attack against targets alleged to be linked to chemical weapons.

It is intended as a one-off, with no further strikes planned unless Syrian president Bashar al-Assad conducts chemical attacks in the future.

There had been speculation in advance of the attack that there was a risk it could lead to world war three. It was far from that. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports:

For the past week, Russian news media speculated dramatically about the looming onset of World War III. But soon after American cruise missiles finally slammed into Syria, Moscow made it clear it did not plan to escalate on the battlefield.

Russian officials from President Vladimir Putin on down condemned the strike as an act of aggression against a sovereign state carried out on the pretext of staged chemical attack. But reading between the lines, there was a second message: The incoming cruise missiles did not cross the threshold that would provoke a military response against Western forces. [Continue reading…]

Meanwhile, some of Trump’s most passionate supporters are expressing their disappointment:

While last night’s missile strikes may reinforce the perception that this is a never-ending war, for some observers a resolution seems less elusive than it might currently appear.

Hassan Hassan writes:

No rebel forces are capable or even willing to resume active fighting against the regime. More importantly, none of the countries involved in the Syrian conflict is interested in seeing that happen. Turkey is already tied to mutually beneficial deals with Russia throughout the north. The Gulf states have almost completely pulled out of the conflict at least since 2016. The US is also not interested in destabilising the regime, certainly not in a way that favours the rebels. American officials view the rebels as either too radical or too disorganised to ally with them. And the regime knows this all too well.

Which brings us to an intriguing argument shared by some fellow Syrians, including some who lean toward the return of the government and are critics of the opposition. Because the survival of the regime is more assured today than at any point in recent years, the argument goes, Bashar Al Assad is now more dispensable than when his symbolism was perceived as essential for his camp. Mr Al Assad can go and the Syrian government can still survive, a formula that the same Syrians would not have accepted a year ago.

Proponents of this view make a reasonable point that considers the toxicity of continuing to have Mr Al Assad in power. As he was a symbol of the old order for the regime’s supporters and thus indispensable, his survival as president is now a reason for his opponents to indefinitely fight the regime.

The mindset of the regime camp in the past stipulated that any minor concession to the opposition would mark a slippery slope that would eventually lead to a regime change and the removal of the president. That was when the regime became embattled. The dynamic is different today because the regime is more stable and secure with more than half the country under government control.

From the perspective of countries like the US and its allies, this is also a critical moment as far as their position towards the regime is concerned. The regime has now retaken most of the Damascus suburbs, the most significant gain since December 2016, when it expelled the rebels from eastern Aleppo. The regime still has more than 40 per cent of the country to retake in order to win the war but it will be greatly emboldened after the areas directly outside Damascus are cleared, since its vital areas throughout the country will have become tightly secured.

Military attacks against the regime will not make a difference if they are divorced from this reality. The US and its allies can allow a situation whereby the regime, once it has weathered the possible storm, will be emboldened and the conflict continues. Or they can attach a purpose to the attacks – beyond punishing the regime for the use of chemical weapons, which is meaningless since the regime did use them and still survived, regardless of whether it now stops – and challenge the regime to push for a political settlement. [Continue reading…]

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