The West snubbed Russian proposal of having Assad resign makes the conflict worse?

Syrian civil war has nearly entered into the fifth year years, and this proxy war has claimed thousands of lives and left millions other displaced. Indeed, Syria, like other war-torn countries in the Middle East, has become the safe haven for Islamic terrorist groups including Islamic state and the al-Nusra Front. The couple of months ago, thousands of Syrians have fled the war and persecution to seek for better and safe place to live their lives in other countries. Some of them have taken risk traveling by boat across the Mediterranean Sea to seek for asylums in European continent. Many of them have innocently died off shores because boats capsized due to the overload of passengers. Unfortunately, some of them have been denied the asylum rights by country like Hungary.

Although the civil war in Syria has drawn the world’s attention, international community has yet reached a substantive solution to put an end to the bloodiest armed conflict. Many western countries including U.S have still remained divided over how to address this humanitarian crisis.

Recently, United States of America has made a clear position toward addressing Syrian civil war, claiming that there is only a political solution which can be deployed to end the conflict. Regarding the Political solution, U.S Secretary of State John Kerry stressed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stepping down must be a part of the solution. Brokering the peace deal and organizing elections will be next step toward building peace and stability. U.S has been playing a very critical role in attempting to overthrow Assad government by training various rebel groups and supplying them with tremendous financial and military assistance.Besides these supports, Washington also ordered military strikes to protect Syria’s rebels it trains from the attacks either from government forces or Islamic state militants.

Nevertheless, Russian’s recent military build up in Syria has reflected the commitment of President Vladimir Putin to protecting Assad government from being toppled. According the European Union foreign affairs and security policy Chief Federica Mogherini’s interview with Al jazeera yesterday, Kremlin fears of losing Assad regime, and the deep involvement of Russian military in Syrian conflicts is a clear message sent to the Washington and its allies in order to show that Russia is a major player in resolving Syrian crisis.

Recently, Moscow has deployed hundreds of troops to Syria and supplied Assad’s loyal forces with many advanced weapons including surface-to-air missiles, Su-25 jet fighters and others military assistance. More importantly, there are up to 500 Russian military personnel stationing in its military base in Syria.Washington has slammed Russia over the military expansion in Syria, saying that it is a very disturbance and accusing Russia of fanning the flame of the conflict. Generally speaking, the West is concerned that its Middle Eastern policy will be complicated and interests there are threatened by the Russia’s policy shift. However, it still called upon Russian government to withdraw the support from Assad regime.

In response to the American criticism, Russian government repeatedly explains that its military presence in Syria is to help strengthen Damascus forces to fight against Daesh and other terrorist organizations. But Russia opposed the plan to remove Assad from power to pave the way for political transition. Recently, President Putin, who is the closest ally of Syria’s Assad, warned that forcing Assad to resign is a grave mistake, leaving the country with security and political uncertainty. He is convinced that the change of political leadership in Syria will create the power struggle among various political factions, meaning that civil war can’t ever be over. To settle down the crisis in Syria, Putin has given a suggestion, which is to help reinforce political institutions in Syria and keep Assad in power. It is reasonable that strengthening political institutions would be helpful addressing the current crisis since it will give Assad an authority to consolidate his power in order for re-uniting his country to counter terrorism and other security threats. After that, Syrians will have responsibility to decide their own future in the election whether to give Assad legitimacy to rule the county again.

Actually, Russia used to propose the resignation of Assad as a part of peace agreement immediately after the war broke out back in 2012. According to the Guardian, there are three point proposal raised by Russian permanent envoy to United Nations Vitaly Churkin during the meeting with former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari who has been the senior negotiator in Syrian peace talks; the proposal includes giving up providing opposition forces with weapon, organizing dialogues between opposition and Assad government, and finding an elegant way for Assad to step down from power. Unfortunately, the West didn’t catch this opportunity because they believed Assad could be overthrown shortly by the rebels and people movement. This means that Russia already offered the concession having Assad step down, but the West itself ignored this rare opportunity until the conflict got out of control. If they, the western countries, accepted the proposal at that time, the conflicts would be ended, clearing the way for a democratic election and handing over responsibility to Syrians to rebuild their nation. Thus, the west should be blamed for letting the conflict become worse.

On the one hand people raised questions why Russia moved to deeply get involved in Syrian crisis this time. As the matter of fact is that for years, Russia only is a diplomatic defender of Assad government at the United Nations Security Council by blocking any resolutions that aim to end Assad’s political survival, but it is very uncanny that Russia exerted its right to beef up its military capacity in the Middle East. It is believed that Russia’s pivot to the Middle East due to the ease of the strained relations between Iran and the West after reaching a deal over Iran nuclear program. In addition to that, It undeniable that Ukraine crisis and NATO military presence in Eastern Europe is one of the reasons why Russia has to shift its policy toward Syria. Because of Ukraine crisis, Russia has been isolated and been slapped by the harsh sanctions imposed by the West.

However, tomorrow, President Barack Obama will hold bilateral talks on the sideline of UN summit in New York with his Russian counterpart president Vladimir Putin to discuss the solutions to address the global security issue. Syrian civil war, Ukraine crisis and rise of terrorism are expected to be on the agenda of the meeting. Despite different perceptions towards solutions to Syrian civil war, they will have opportunities to clarify their stances and seek the common ground to further improve their deteriorated diplomatic ties. The improvement of the relations between these powers will help facilitate the process of political change in Syria. In addition to seeking help from Russia, U.S currently is turning to ask for help from Iran, which is the main supporter of Assad regime, but it is still skeptical that Iran will assist United States in persuading Assad to step aside.

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