Syrian President Bashar Assad’s exclusive interview this week with Sputnik indicates that he is no longer worried about his government’s survival, but is looking ahead through projected elections to political recovery, former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman said.
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Assad’s comments to Sputnik revealed that he was confident he could restore an effective, unified and centralized Syrian state, Freeman argued.
“Sputnik’s interview with Assad makes it clear that the Syrian president remains fixated not just on the survival of his own regime but also on the recovery of the territories and populations it has lost to its opposition,” Freeman stated on Thursday.
Assad’s “objective remains the reinstatement of a unitary Syrian state under the control of himself in Damascus. He rejects the concept of federalism for Syria,” Freeman added.
Although Assad might indicate a willingness to make tactical compromises in the upcoming negotiations to end Syria’s five-year civil war, he remained determined to reestablish the full power of the Syrian state, Freeman observed.
“For President Assad, the struggle in Syria remains a zero-sum game in which political gains by any other party are necessarily a loss for him as well as all Syrians.”
The five-month Russian air campaign in Syria against the Daesh and the Nusra Front had succeeded in its strategic and diplomatic goals, Freeman maintained.
“Russia’s limited use of force in Syria has succeeded in its objective of reducing the struggle there to a choice between Daesh and its opponents, most prominent among which is the Assad government.”
As a result of the air campaign’s success, Russian diplomacy has drawn the United States into cooperation on a ceasefire in Syria and the pursuit of some sort of compromise that would enable a united front by Syrians against the Daesh, Freeman argued.However, the interview illuminates the ongoing challenge to Russian diplomacy in Syria, he also noted.
“Moscow has yet to persuade Assad to provide a basis for harnessing other external parties, like the United States and its regional allies as well as Iran, to the cause of re-stabilizing Syria and Iraq,” Freeman stated.
Restoring stability to both Iraq and Syria was essential to end the carnage in the Levant and to relieve Europe of the pressure it feels from the flight of Syrians, Iraqis and others from the horrors currently engulfing their homelands. But peace in Syria was not yet at hand, Freeman cautioned.