Doomed failure of US plans in Syria is nearing its end as Syrian army is rapidly advancing on in the country’s southern fronts against the Washington-backed militants, moving Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton to unveiled a significant change in the White House position on the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Talking in the CBS news network’s Face the Nation program on Sunday, Bolton, known as a war hawk in the US politics, addressed a scheduled meeting between the America President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, saying the summit will focus on Syria future and that Trump hopes to secure Moscow help with evicting the Iranian forces from the war-ravaged country.
Asked if Assad has won the eight-year domestic war, Bolton answered: “Well I don’t think Assad is the strategic issue. I think Iran is the strategic issue. It’s not just their continuing nuclear weapons program it’s their massive support for international terrorism and their conventional forces in the Middle East.”
The likely shift in US posture comes while from the outset the Americans stressed on the removal of the Syrian leader, recognizing him the central problem causing the devastating home conflict. But, what is behind Bolton’s softening of tone towards Assad?
Cracking the Iran-led Axis of Resistance
Bolton’s primary goal behind such remarks on the Syrian president was to sow division between a tightly-united Resistance camp, led by Iran, with Syria being its key member. The recent developments in the battlefronts ensured the Americans that Assad was certainly an ultimate winner with the ability to restore rule over the whole country. Washington appears to have acceded to the reality that it has lost the anti-Syrian proxy war as war equations has given Damascus the upper hand.
Still, the American administration is making its last struggles tos drive Assad’s allies out of the country. To this end, it is sending a message to the Syrian leadership, telling it the US has no problem with Assad remaining in power if he separates ways from Tehran. This makes a point clear: Western-Arab-Israeli camp imposed the crisis on Syria majorly because of its strategic alliance with the Islamic Republic. Once Damascus sides with the three-party camp, the war will fast end.
To put it differently, Bolton by his new comment has offered a carrot to Syria and even Russia. The aim is to break their alliance with Iran to get the Iranian advisory forces, helping Damascus fight multiple terror groups in a multi-fronted conflict, out of the battlegrounds. The US sends signals to Putin of readiness to accept Assad’s rule over Syria. In return, Trump expects Damascus and Moscow’s assistance to force Tehran out of the Syrian scene. The final aim is to cut the links between Resistance camp’s actors to preserve the Israeli regime’s security, the price of which is the Syrian crisis.
No trust in the US
But Assad’s view of the US and Iran is poles apart. Over the past few months, the Syrian strongman reiterated Washington’s support for the terrorists fighting his forces, asserting that the US was not a trustable party in negotiations. He is perfectly aware that after 2011, the year the crisis erupted, the Americans concentrated on top objectives: Impairing Syria and ousting Assad.
This distrust is faced by a strong trust in Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the two players Damascus is sure will remain always trustful and hand holders in any conditions, even in the new conditions. This makes it largely impossible for Assad to forsake his ardent supporters. Moreover, the Damascus government is sure that separation from the staunch allies allows for bolder Washington intervention in Syria’s home affairs, especially in political negotiations and future arrangements. In other words, the US plans to separate Assad from his loyal allies and subsequently raise doubt to his political legitimacy to pave the way for his removal and power transfer to the opposition groups with close ties to Washington.
Destroying balance of power to Russia’s detriment
Bolton’s comments address not only the Syrian leader but also Russia, another key player in the Syrian crisis. The US national security advisor has tried to pass a signal to the Russians that Trump-Putin bilateral, set for July 16, should come out with an American-desired result: An agreement to get Iran out of the circle of the Syrian developments. But this is too risky for the Russians to accept. In fact, if they bow to the American demands, they not only make no gains but also will be recognized as the losing side of the rivalry with the US-led Western camp.
Moscow is well aware that a large part of its successes on the ground was not possible without Hezbollah’s combat and Iran’s advisory presence against the Western-backed militias. Without these two actors, Moscow would have never enjoyed such a strong position. So, if Iran pulls out, Russia will be the main loser as the balance of power will shift to the West’s advantage. The Russians are highly unlikely to yield to such a humiliating scenario.