Nothing but a dead end with Putin

It will take one or two generations for Syrians to overcome their hatred of Russia and Iran

Jamal Khashoggi

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Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to trick the Saudis and Turks by suggesting an impossible solution, which looks peaceful but simply duplicates the same system rejected by the Syrian people, but without President Bashar al-Assad, as if the problem lies in his presence only.

I do not believe that Putin is ignorant of the current state of the region or the reality of the Syrian situation. He knows the rules well. However, he is taking for granted that Russia is a superpower that no one wants to confront directly.

He is also taking advantage of some regional powers’ reluctance or fear of change caused by the Arab Spring. They are willing to accept an ugly regime, even a pro-Iran one threatening Arab national security, but not an Islamic democratic force that will inevitably govern in Damascus once the regime falls.

Putin is using old Machiavellian tactics and time-wasting techniques through useless contacts and initiatives. Nine points are shortened to seven after a round of negotiations, then a new point is added after the third round, while the killing machine pursues its war on the Syrian revolution in collaboration with sectarian partners Iran, Iraq, Hezbollah and the Syrian regime.

Opposing positions

Putin knows that the Saudis and Turks will not let Assad remain in power. If he stays, war will continue. If he wins, so will Iran. Neither do they or Qatar want a war that will freeze their interests in terms of trade, oil and gas, nor do they want Iran in Syria. This is not a political stand open to negotiation, but an unchangeable and consistent strategic position.

Putin knows that the Saudis and Turks will not let Assad remain in power. If he stays, war will continue. If he wins, so will Iran.

Jamal Khashoggi

Putin also has a consistent political position. He and Iran know that they have no future in the eastern Mediterranean if the Syrian revolution triumphs. In that case, they will be viewed by the Syrian people the same way Iran perceives the United States after 1979 “Islamic “ revolution . which become a political ideology that lasted 35 years until the nuclear deal was signed in June. . It will take one or two generations for Syrians to overcome their hatred of Russia and Iran.

This is why these two countries need to produce a new regime similar to Assad’s to govern Syria in the future: sectarian, undemocratic and repressive, but without his family. However, such a rearrangement is unrealizable in six months or even a year, as the Saudis have told Russia that the maximum duration of a transitional stage would be six months.

Unworkable proposals

Putin knows well that opposition fighters can never be combined with the regime’s army, as his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has suggested. To add to the strangeness of this proposal, Lavrov said: “It will constitute the core of an anti-terrorism national army.” Moscow is targeting revolutionary factions instead of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has expanded in opposition-controlled regions thanks to Russian bombing.

How is it possible for Ahrar al-Sham’s young leader Muhanad al-Masri, with his Salafist background and goal of a sharia-governed Syria, to get along with old Baathist intelligence chief and former jailer Ali Mamluk? There is a huge time gap between them that will only be filled with more blood.

Accordingly, Russia introduced a new idea of “fighting those who reject the achieved peace agreement,” and tried to market it to the Saudis and Turks in Vienna. Strangely, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry fell for the trap and endorsed this proposal at a press conference.

It is improbable that all these contacts and meetings will lead to a solution. Russia must first feel the pain of entering Syria in order to deal with the situation more seriously. No Saudi official will publicly reveal the number of Saudi- or Qatari-funded anti-tank missiles sent to the rebels, or talk about the intention to arm them with surface-to-air missiles. Nonetheless, it is most probably being executed with the help of Turkey.

The Saudi position can be summarized as: Iran has no place in Syria. No discussion will be held before a solution to remove Iran and its militias from Syria is found. But under Russia's watch, Iranian mobilization in Syria is increasing. They are collaborating against the Syrian people, while we stand by them.

This article was first published in al-Hayat .


Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels. Twitter: @JKhashoggi

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