Talks suggest the endgame is afoot in Syria

Michael Young writes: With the Syrian regime losing ground in the Ghab Plain and Qaryatayn last week, the protagonists in Syria are slowly preparing for the aftermath of the conflict. Few believe president Bashar Al Assad can prevail in the war, and even he conceded his army’s difficulties late last month.

With Mr Al Assad’s foes gaining, all eyes have been on diplomacy in recent weeks. Russian, Saudi and American officials have met in Qatar, the Russian and Saudi foreign ministers met in Moscow on Monday, and Russia mediated a recent meeting in Jeddah between the Saudi deputy crown prince and defence minister, Mohammed bin Salman, and the head of Syria’s National Security Bureau, Ali Mamlouk.

Even Iran has offered a plan for a political solution in Syria. Two things are apparent in these exchanges: Mr Al Assad’s vulnerabilities have prompted his allies to begin a process of finding a negotiated outcome in Syria that could potentially save him and prevent a power vacuum that benefits extremists; and the Syrian president has become increasingly irrelevant, his fate almost entirely in the hands of others. [Continue reading…]

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