Tags: lavrov | assad | struggle | survive

Lavrov Backing Is Short Reprieve for Assad's Struggle to Survive

Sunday, 28 September 2014 05:02 PM

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s call for the U.S. to cooperate with Syria as it attacks Islamic State militants may only signal a short reprieve for embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Speaking in a Bloomberg Television interview on Sept. 27, Lavrov urged the U.S. to “engage Syria,” which has been shunned by most world leaders since the quashing of protests in 2011 sparked a civil war. There is an “understanding that terrorism is a much bigger threat than the continued presidency of Assad,” Lavrov said.

Any easing of the political pressure on Assad will be ephemeral, political analysts said. While the U.S. last week expanded its bombing to targets in Syria, members of the broadest Arab military coalition since the 1991 Gulf War have said Assad’s removal is still a condition for ending the chaos in Syria.

“Assad will get some short-term gains against his multitude of enemies, but he is inevitably finished,” Paul Sullivan, a Middle East specialist at Georgetown University in Washington, said in response to e-mailed questions. Islamic State “is not the only target. Assad is in the sights of many countries.”

Among the first to remind world leaders of the need to get rid of Assad was Saudi Arabia.

Assad’s government “has done its best to provide the appropriate environment for the emergence of terrorist groups,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said last week in New York, adding that his country was still supporting some of the groups seeking to topple Assad.

‘Not Logical’

The Pentagon and its partners carried out more attacks on positions in Syria this weekend. The coalition hit Islamic State militants near the border with Turkey, where Kurdish fighters have been struggling to stop the group’s advance.

The Sunni Muslim extremist group, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL, has driven tens of thousands from their homes and circulated videos showing the beheading of two U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.

Russia, a Soviet-era ally of Syria, brokered a deal with the U.S. on disarming Syria’s chemical arsenal last year, averting American military strikes against the country. After that experience, it’s “not logical” for U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration to refuse to cooperate now with Syria, Lavrov said.

‘Out of Power’

As part of the deal that brought Sunni nations into the anti-Islamic State coalition, Obama agreed to increase U.S. efforts to train and equip Syrian rebels as part of the American policy seeking Assad’s removal.

“There appear to be discussions by all parties, whether the U.S., the Gulf states, Iran, or Russia, of the need for a political solution to the future of Syria,” Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, said in response to e-mailed questions. “That would mean Assad moving out of power.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sept. 19 that Syrian ally Iran has a role to play in combating Islamic State, though the U.S. government said it won’t coordinate with the Iranians or share intelligence.

“Iran of course should be part of the efforts to fight ISIL, because Iran is the strong opponent of this group,” said Lavrov, who met his Iranian and Syrian counterparts in New York last week during the United Nations General Assembly. “To ignore Iran in this fight and not to invite it for cooperation is a mistake, just like it is a mistake not to consult with the Syrian government and not to cooperate with it.”

Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said on Sept. 27 after meeting Lavrov that the U.S. attacks on Syrian soil lack legitimacy because they don’t have UN Security Council approval.

“Anyway, if their aim is to strike against ISIS, it’s OK,” Muallem said. “But we still have our doubts about their hidden agenda.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Olivia Sterns in New York at osterns1@bloomberg.net; Henry Meyer in New York at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net; Glen Carey in Riyadh at gcarey8@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net Andrew J. Barden

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's call for the U.S. to cooperate with Syria as it attacks Islamic State militants may only signal a short reprieve for embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.Speaking in a Bloomberg Television interview on Sept. 27, Lavrov urged...
lavrov, assad, struggle, survive
Sunday, 28 September 2014 05:02 PM
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