Michele Kelemen reports: Syrian President Bashar Assad is sounding rather confident these days. In his first major address in the past two months, he promised that his troops will reclaim “every inch” of Syrian territory.
“We have no other choice but to be victorious,” Assad told Syria’s parliament on Tuesday. He also lashed out at rebels, blaming them for the failure of peace talks backed by the United Nations.
Assad’s speech is calling into question international diplomacy on Syria. One Syria-watcher at the Atlantic Council in Washington, Faysal Itani, says it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
“It is safe to say [the peace effort] has failed,” Itani tells NPR, saying he never thought the prospects for diplomacy were good.
The diplomatic plan relied on Russia and Iran using their influence with Assad to encourage him to agree on a transitional government and make peace with more moderate rebels.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, one of the key architects of this approach, was “trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat,” according to Itani. While Kerry was seeking concessions from Assad, the military balance of power was turning in favor of the Syrian regime.
“The Russians are quite committed to ensuring it stays that way. No one has any incentive to give John Kerry what he’s asking for,” Itani says. [Continue reading…]