Assad Is Way Ahead of the Syrian Revolt. His Co-Victors are Khamenei & Putin

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Moscow report exclusively that on Tuesday, March 5, for the first time in two years of brutal warfare, representatives of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Syrian opposition will sit down in the Russian capital. They will open political negotiations on the terms and conditions for ending the war that has taken the lives of 80-100,000 Syrians and ravaged the country’s major cities, .
The opposition delegation will be led by Moaz al-Khatib, head of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. The Syrian government’s negotiator may be Foreign Minister Walid Moallem. But that is not sure.
The Russian live wire who brought the parties together is Russian Deputy Foreign Minster Mikhail Bogdanov.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been called upon a number of times to issue official Russian statements on the situation in Syria, but it is Bogdanov who runs the Russian show in Syria and the Middle East, in close touch with President Vladimir Putin and Russian spy chief Mikhail Fradkov.
Bashar Assad, say our intelligence sources, is capable of springing a surprise – even on his Russian allies – by naming an unexpected representative to the Moscow negotiations.
Of late, the Syrian ruler has cut himself off from outside contacts, including his own cabinet ministers and army generals. He appears to communicate with only two people, about whom little is known to the Western and Arab intelligence services which monitor his actions.
They are Daoud Dakak and Ayad Ghazala. Assad could decide to send one of these unknown quantities to the Moscow talks.

Moscow seeks Syria’s tripartitition

For the first time since the Cold War years of the 1950s, the United States is not directly involved in a decisive Middle East diplomatic process, although a measure of coordination is apparently maintained between Presidents Putin and Barack Obama.
Each of the three parties – Russia, the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition – will be coming to the table after laying down preconditions. None were accepted, but the three parties promised to listen and take them into account.
Moscow demanded that agreed armistice lines for ending the conflict would divide Syria into three regions controlled by three parties: the Syrian army, the Syrian rebels and local militias, such as Druze and Kurds.
The work of marking out boundaries, how and by whom, would be settled in the negotiations.
A second Moscow demand, to which Assad has assented, was that if the talks make progress and a ceasefire is accepted, he will appoint a top-ranking Syrian figure, such as Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa, to oversee its implementation.
The Russians did not raise the possibility of A-Sharaa replacing Assad as president at some future date, although it would hasten national reconciliation as the vice president is acceptable to both sides of the Syrian conflict.

Assad won’t step down, may even run for reelection

Bashar Assad put forward two pre-conditions:
1. On no account will he even discuss stepping down at any point in the talks. This message was relayed by the Russians to the rebels. In other words, Assad still holds the whip hand in determining the outcome of the negotiations.
2. And he made no promises not to stand for reelection in the 2014 presidential vote. So Assad sees himself ruling Syria in the long haul.
The two conditions would have been cancelled out by the Syrian rebels’ provisos, which were: The talks must culminate in Assad’s resignation and his replacement by a civilian or military figure acceptable to both parties. Furthermore, Assad may not run for another term as president in 2014.
Although not all the rebel factions accept al-Khatib as their representative, or agree to abide by the understandings reached in Moscow – especially in the case of the al-Qaeda-associated factions – nonetheless the fact of their taking place at all represents a geo-strategic turning-point.
The majority of Syrian rebel factions have been forced to acknowledge they cannot beat Assad and his army on the battlefield.
He is the first Arab ruler to contain a popular uprising after similar revolutions swept Zin bin Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muammar Qaddafi in Libya off their presidential pedestals.

Iran gained a sphere of influence up to the Mediterranean

Assad stopped the rebel assault on Damascus in its tracks, after they failed to take the heart of Aleppo, seize Syria’s chemical arsenal or capture Syrian Air Force bases, in contrast to their loud claims of victory.
Because they have discovered their limits, the rebels are willing to listen to Moscow’s proposals, starting with a ceasefire accord and moving onto political accommodations.
By gaining the upper hand in the Syrian civil war, Assad also bolstered the Tehran-Damascus-Hizballah strategic axis.
In so doing, Assad gave Iran the historic reward of expanding the Shiite sphere of influence from the Persian Gulf to the eastern Mediterranean.
He also boosted Hizballah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah as strongman of Lebanon.
For the Russian President, the Syrian war’s outcome is a personal victory. After Qaddafi was overthrown in Libya, he determined that never again would Moscow stand aside for Washington and NATO to topple any other Arab ruler. This he achieved in Syria.

And the losers are…

The US and President Obama: The rising power of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda elements in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, and the collapse of attempts to establish transitional democratic regimes in those countries showed how hollow was the US talk of a pro-democracy, liberal Arab Spring.
The Gulf States, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar: Their aid to the Syrian rebels in arms and funding came nowhere near matching Iran’s contribution to the Assad cause in the coin of fighters, money and weapons. Despite Western sanctions, Tehran was able to pour nearly a billion dollars of assistance per month into the Syrian war effort.
Israel: Despite having fought two wars – against Hizballah in 2006 and against Hamas in 2009 – Israel was unable to break the Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah axis tightening around it. Now this axis has been strengthened and the Iranian nuclear threat marches on.
Turkey: Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan counted on a key role in ousting Assad providing the linchpin for his Middle East power bid and relations with Tehran. Now he must live under the shadow of his declared enemy and watch him strengthening his grip on Damascus.

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