Abdelbari Atwan writes: After two and a half years of brutal war the international community has reached a consensus that rehabilitation of Assad is preferable to the deep uncertainties of any alternative. There are many indicators and reasons:
First: the Americans and Europeans are prepared, not only to contemplate Assad’s candidacy in next summer’s presidential elections, but even to extend his current term by a further two years, postponing elections until 2015 with the excuse that security problems will make organizing the ballot extremely difficult, particularly in areas outside government.
Second: the erosion of international and regional isolation of the Syrian regime, following Assad’s agreement to sign up to the Chemical Weapons Convention and allow inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to oversee the destruction of his arsenal. All of these factors enhance the legitimacy of the Assad regime.
Third: US-Iranian rapprochement has already seen John Kerry in one to one talks with his Iranian counterpart, foreign minister Mohammad Javad. Do not be surprised if Kerry meets Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem in the coming weeks.
Fourth: the revival of Palestinian diplomatic relations with the regime after two and a half years of estrangement. Two days ago, Abbas Zaki, the personal envoy of President Mahmoud Abbas, met with President Assad. At the same time, a Hamas delegation, led by Mohammed Nasr, a member of the political bureau, visited Tehran and the two sides agreed to normalize their relationship again and mooted the return of Hamas to its base in Damascus – Khaled Meshaal uprooted it in April this year, breaking with the Assad regime, a long term supporter of the Palestinian resistance.
Fifth: rapid normalization of relations between the new government of Egypt led by Abdel Fattah El Sisi and its Syrian counterparts, and deteriorating relations between Egypt and the Obama administration which has suspended military aid to the junta estimated at more than $1.5 billion annually.
Sixth: there are indicators that the Government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey is shifting its stance under mounting US pressure and Syrian allegations that it is supporting “terrorism” over the border in Syria. Turkey is starting to impose restrictions on the movement of jihadist groups across Turkish territory and has frozen some bank accounts belonging to known extremist groups.
Turkey also fears an explosion of sectarian and ethnic conflicts at home, mirroring those already tearing Iraq and Syria apart (the latter also shares Turkey’s Kurdish ‘problem’).
Seventh: widening gaps between the various elements within the Syrian opposition, and the lack of a unified universally representative umbrella. The armed opposition is now dominated by armed jihad groups and riven with division; there are frequent clashes between the Free Syrian Army and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. [Continue reading…]