x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

New US accusations to Assad: reality or a political ploy

Abdul Bari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of Rai Al Youm, says that the US rhetoric on Syria has been readjusted back into its first more “hawkish” mode. Another writer questions Geneva 2 conference's outcomes.

The new US accusations to Al Assad: a reality or a political ploy to save the US-Saudi alliance?

It seems the Saudi charm is more potent than many had expected. Less than two days after US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Riyadh and met with the Saudi monarch and other officials, the US rhetoric on Syria has been readjusted back into its first more “hawkish” mode, suggested Abdul Bari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of the news website Rai Al Youm.

The Saudis didn’t hide their outrage against the US administration. Washington’s decision to start talks with Tehran and cancel its military strikes on Syria left Riyadh feeling backstabbed.

Saudi officials made their outrage clear. Mr Kerry was warned that the kingdom intends to arm the moderate Islamist opposition groups in Syria with modern weapons without prior coordination with Washington.

They also alluded to plans to reduce oil production, leading to a hike in global oil prices.

These soft threats were sufficient to prompt Washington re-embrace its previous position about Bashar Al Assad’s departure from power.

Following unprecedented US praise to Mr Al Assad for his cooperation with international inspection teams that were sent to Syria to survey and destroy the regime’s chemical arsenal, the Obama administration shifted positions and came out with statements accusing the Syrian regime of hiding some of its chemical weapons.

“We don’t know whether the sudden US adjustment towards Syria is mere lip service aimed to appease the Saudis and contain their outrage or whether it is a real change of position aimed to save the US-Saudi alliance,” the writer said.

What we know for sure is that president Obama’s administration doesn’t want to get involved in any military ventures in the region and it doesn’t have any plans to attack Iran’s nuclear installations, not even to please Israel. Intervention in Syria is also off the table because America’s strategic priorities and its common interests are moving towards Southeast Asia and Africa.

“We sure hope that the US accusations about Syria are true, just as we wished that the same back when the US went looking for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction,” the writer noted.

“As facts of the Iraqi invasion later unfolded, it transpired that president Saddam Hussein was honest when he decided to cooperate with international inspectors to destroy his weapons. Nothing proves that his Syrian counterpart isn’t fully cooperating too because both men’s main goal was to gain time and keep their respective regimes afloat.”

But the US today isn’t what it used to be before the Iraqi invasion. The Syrian regime has managed to survive for three years since the war started and president Obama didn’t win a Nobel peace prize to wage new wars, especially in a faltering economic situation.

Geneva 2 conference cannot provide a solution to Syria’s many wars, but secret diplomacy can

If the Syrian crisis is at an impossible deadlock, it is because of the United States’ blind indifference and Russia’s obstinate bias, opined the columnist Rajeh Al Khoury in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

“It would be futile to speak of the Geneva-2 conference as a set date for a possible solution. It is quite clear at this phase that the conference would at best produce a settlement that wouldn’t materialise anytime in the near future,” he added.

The conference itself isn’t the place to forge solutions. It will be nothing more than a photo-op. The key to this complex formula lies in the secret diplomacy, mainly between the US and Russia. It will be a formula that in turn includes a web of intertwined regional interests and is directly linked to issues other than the Syrian crisis.

The solution in Syria will be a gateway to subsequent solutions, starting with Iran’s nuclear projects and behaviour. It would bridle Iran’s subversive interference and intercept its ambition to play a pivotal role in the region.

Ahead of the new round of discussions between Iran and the P5+1 group that began yesterday in Geneva, Iran’s foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif stated on Tuesday that his country could use its influence to encourage non-Syrian forces fighting in Syria to withdraw from the country.

“This is a blunt announcement that Iran is exploiting the Syrian crisis to secure its own interests,” the writer observed.

“The involvement of Russia, China, Turkey and the Gulf states in the tangles of the Syrian crisis requires solutions and settlements that protect the interests of all parties involved.”

A solution that is limited to the radically contrasting demands of the Syrian regime and the various opposition groups isn’t viable, the writer added.

It is no secret that there are in fact six wars raging on in Syria at present: first there’s the war between the regime and the Free Syrian Army. Then there’s the war between the FSA and the Al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Daesh, he added.

A third war is the one between Daesh and Annusrah Front, another extremist anti-regime group. The Kurds too are waging their own war against the regime and Daesh. The fifth is Iran’s war with the Syrian people and subsequently with the Gulf states that support them.

Lastly, there is the underlying war between the US and Russia, which is hungry to reclaim a polarising role in the Middle East.

Faced with such deep entanglement among the elements of the conflict, the UN envoy Lakhdar Ibrahimi couldn’t hope to make a real breakthrough in the Syrian impasse.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk