Thursday, May 9, 2013

"Unacceptable" for the US, but active diplomacy with Russia provides an opportunity to be involved without risk'

"...What does this mean in the case of Syria? When the Kremlin repeated month after month that it does not support Assad, but rather supports a principled approach to resolving the conflict, the world interpreted this as an evasion. In fact, the Russian position is based on two propositions. First, outside forces do not have the right to impose any solution on the parties to the Syrian conflict. Rather, they should help them reach a solution that they can then implement. Second, it is likely that there are simply no good scenarios in Syria, and the objective should be to minimize losses.In practice, to simplify, this means we can say that Russia and the US differ today on only one issue: the sequence of actions. First Assad leaves, then the process of establishing a new political regime in Syria begins, or the other way around. Moscow supports the second version, and Washington the first. As strange as it seems, they are in agreement on everything else: After Assad, there is a risk that Syria will become ungovernable, and the goal of outside forces (but probably not its neighbors in the Persian Gulf) is to prevent power from falling into the hands of Islamic extremists.
However, this one difference is not a procedural detail, but a matter of principle. Which is paramount, processes within the framework of a sovereign state, or the influence of outside forces on it? For Russia, which adheres to classical principles of international relations, the answer is obvious: Sovereign rights are inviolable.
This does not mean that nothing can be done until Damascus gives its consent to the peace process. During the Syrian crisis, Russian diplomats have referred more than once to Dayton, where the leaders of the opposing sides were locked in a room and not let out until they agreed to the framework for a new Bosnia. Of course, they were also subjected to intense pressure, but from Russia’s perspective, the point is that no one was excluded from the process beforehand as a “pariah.” Some version of this model could be used in Syria. Surely, history does not repeat itself exactly, but this provides a basic concept. In the current situation, it means we cannot factor out Assad’s representatives (or Assad himself — they dealt directly with Milosevic) and Iran, the key players.
For the US, this seems unacceptable, but it is clear that the Obama administration still does not want to become deeply enmeshed in the Syrian conflict. It certainly cannot ignore the problem, so active diplomacy with Russia provides a good opportunity to be involved without risk. The serene atmosphere of the negotiations with Kerry reaffirms that the diplomatic process is not at a stalemate, so we should not do the bidding of those who wish to intervene....."

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