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MOSCOW, August 14. /TASS/. Russian experts do not see any signs of Moscow’s readiness to downscale support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — something that commentators in the West are speculating about. The case in hand is not the salvation of Assad for Assad’s own sake and his fate should not be a top priority at talks with the Syrian opposition, they indicate.
The main thing now is to agree on the country’s future while the destiny of the Syrian leader can be decided later on in line with democratic procedures. And if the sides fail to reach agreement, Syria will be doomed to chaos and the thriving of the Islamic State terrorist grouping.
The US and Saudi Arabia did not support Russia’s proposal to set up an antiterrorist coalition embracing all the forces opposed to the terrorist grouping, including the Syrian Armed Forces, largely because they do not want to have any business with the Assad government.
On Thursday, Moscow hosted a delegation of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, which belongs to the radical wing of Syrian oppositionists. The Kremlin’s attempts to convince it to join forces with the government in fighting against a common enemy, the Islamic State, ended up in a failure again.
Khaled al-Khhodja, the coalition president said it believed Bashar al-Assad was the root-cause of the problem and there could be no solution to it.
The Syrian National Coalition is the only strain of opposition forces in Syria that Moscow is still unable to bring to an inter-Syrian dialogue with the authorities. On the face of it, Russian government officials are confident the downfall of the Assad regime will mean a change in the balance of forces in Syria and will inescapably strengthen the Islamic State’s positions.
"Even if you judge from statements by Russian officials, there are no tokens of Russia’s readiness to jettison Assad anywhere in sight," believes Dr. Vladimir Sotnikov, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
"Assad’s troops make up the main force opposing the Islamic State and if all the attempts to make an arrangement flop and if Assad is removed militarily in the final run, the feuding sections of the opposition will plunge into a struggle for power, and this means the onset of chaos, which the Islamic State surely will make a ploy of," he said.
"We’re saying there is no military solution to the conflict and political tools are needed," Dr. Irina Zvyagelskaya, a professor at the MGIMO Diplomatic University and the Vice-President of the Russian Center for Strategic and International Research.
But political instruments would imply arrangements between the opposition leaders and the Assad regime. "This in turn will bring up a question about Assad’s fate, too."
The problem is that if his fate is placed at the top of the agenda, no kind of agreements will be reached then, Dr. Zvyagelskaya said.
"Imagine any ruler ready to negotiate with the people who believe he shouldn’t exist," she went on. "The result will be his removal, his bowing out of the political arena. And who in his right mind will conduct dialogue on these conditions?"
It is obvious that the dialogue should center on the importance of integrating the opposition, on creating a government of national accord. "And when steps towards stabilization are made, a question on whether Assad will resign and on what terms could be raised in the process of electoral cycles," Dr. Zvyagelskaya said.
"I don’t think Russia can be viewed exactly as an ally of Assad because the problem is much broader," she said. "If Syria is crushed to pieces, all of us do understand what kind of forces will get an extra impetus - not only the Islamic State but a lot of other extremists, too."
"The process will spread far beyond the Middle East," Dr. Zvyagelskaya said. "It will flood not only Syria and the neighboring states but will be easily spelling over borders that will have ceased to exist. On top of all that, one should think about the plight to Syria’s religious and ethnic minorities — the Christians and the Kurds."
"It would be short-sighted to destroy the outlines of political dialogue and place Assad’s destiny at the top of the agenda," she indicated. "Talks have begun. It’s essential to make agreements and stabilize the situation."
"As for Assad, decisions on his future can be made later on in a democratic state where democratic norms will be in effect," Dr. Zvyagelskaya said.
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