Talks: Assad Departure To Save U.S. Face From Flawed Middle East Policy?

United States Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement Saturday, September 20, 2015, calling on Russia and Iran to persuade Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power through a negotiated political transition. In London for talks with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Kerry pointed to the refugee crisis emanating from Syria as an indicator that Assad had to go.

According to the Irish Times, Kerry confirmed that the U.S. welcomes Russian intervention in Syria to curtail Islamic State expansion, but the worsening refugee situation requires a compromise solution involving regime change.

Evidence shows that the U.S.-instigated Syrian civil war, rallying rebel forces against the Assad regime, started to backfire as early as November, 2014. According to the Guardian, anti-regime forces defected to the fledgling Islamic State (ISIS) when U.S. airstrikes were conducted against ISIS fighters who had beheaded six western hostages. Fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamic military groups joined forces with ISIS, saturating large swaths of Syria and Iraq.

The following is a statement from former FSA Commander Abu Talha on his defection to ISIS, in a public declaration quoted by the Guardian.

Since that day, I vowed not to fight under a flag bearing the mark of the F.S.A. even for a second. I looked around for truthful jihadis, to fight by their side. I could not find any better than the jihadis of ISIS. I told my fighters: ‘I’m going to join ISIS, you are free to follow me or choose your own way’. All those who were cursing and attacking us for joining ISIS came to pledge their loyalty to ISIS. A couple were F.S.A. commanders, others were members of Islamic brigades. Even ordinary people now demand to be governed by ISIS. Large brigades in Idlib, Aleppo, Derra, Qalamoun and south Damascus have pledged loyalty to Isis in secret. Many senior leaders of brigades in Syria are in talks with us now to get together and fight as a united force against the U.S. aggression.”

While Kerry gives voice to the changed U.S. attitude regarding Russia’s support of Assad forces against the ISIS threat, Syrian Christians see the rebels once regarded as liberating heroes, turning out to be jihadi killers. Faced with a choice between dictatorial rule by Assad or annihilation by ISIS-led rebels, the dwindling Christian community opts for survival as mass beheadings of Christians by Islamic fighters proliferate. According to Breitbert, Abu Fadi, the Christian community leader in Aleppo gave a blunt assessment of the Christian plight.

“There is no question at all about whom we support: the government, of course. It is the only force protecting us from the jihadists and extremists.”

There is a growing notion of U.S. President Barack Obama being upstaged by Russian President Vladimir Putin in a game of political chess. Obama’s move: a nuclear deal giving Iran $100 billion dollars that would be helpful in its alliances with Syria, Hezbollah, and Shia militias. Putin’s move: defending Assad with military strikes against ISIS, a U.S. enemy. Quandary: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Result: Putin wins by checkmate.

As Kerry talks of an Assad departure to ease the Syrian conflict, Assad’s allies, Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah have so far been unresponsive.

[Photo by Salah Malkawi / Getty Images]