Secret Obama-Putin Entente to Enforce Syria Solution – Minus Assad

Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin have quietly come together for the first time as the heads of two superpowers for concrete action to enforce the termination of a Middle East conflict, namely the Syrian war.
Their secret understanding, as detailed below, is revealed here for the first time by DEBKA Weekly’s exclusive sources in the US and Russian capitals.
Although US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, may be credited with the diplomacy for forging a pact, that offers the first real chance of ending a war that flounders from atrocity to calamity, it was actually worked out in detail and composed away from the cameras by two presidential insiders: Special US envoy Brett H. McGurk, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.
Both have solid credentials: McGurk, who replaced Gen. John R. Allen as special presidential envoy for the US-led coalition against ISIS, negotiated the last prisoner exchange with Iran, while Bogdanov, the Russian president’s special representative for the Middle East, is in charge of Moscow’s policy for the region.
Published here for the first time are the pact’s main components:
1. The US and Russia will exert every scrap of political, economic and military power at their disposal to force their allies to line up behind the Obama-Putin entente and whatever the two presidents decide for Syria. For Washington, this means leaning hard on Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council members, such as Saudi Arabia, while Moscow will use its leverage to bend Iran and Syrian President Bashar Assad
(Find out where these countries stand in separate exclusive items in this issue.)
2. US and Russian troops based in Syria will apply military muscle against parties refusing to knuckle under or acting to overturn the deal.
McGurk and Bogdanov divided between them the list of Syrian rebel militias and flagged them for pulling into line ahead of the Syrian peace conference opening Friday, Jan. 29 in Geneva
First, the Russia and the US negotiators agreed on a tit for tat: Moscow gave way on inviting the Saudi-funded rebel Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) – even though it numbers Salafi extremists whose ideology is close to that of Al Qaeda.
Washington, for its part, bowed to Moscow’s demand that a seat at the table be reserved for the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party, whose military arm is the YPG militia.
The Russians will carry the main onus of enforcement. Their military presence in Syria allows them to interact directly with local forces in the various regions and force their obedience, leaving the Americans to take a back seat.
3. It was agreed that neither Assad nor any of his family members in key military and intelligence positions today will be eligible to run for president in the elections that follow a period of transition, or hold high position in the future regime.
A major obstacle to the Obama-Putin accord was removed at the outset of the dialogue by a piece of information that Bogdanov put before McGurk. He reported that the late Col. Gen. Igor Sergun, director of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency (who died suddenly on Jan. 3), had been sent previously to Damascus to inform Assad that Putin believed the time had come for the Syrian dictator to step down.
He plans to strengthen the Syrian army, ready for replacing Assad and his clan with a strong military regime as the only way to bring stability to the devastated country.
4. To ensure continuity of governance in Damascus, the US and Moscow agreed to retain the present regime’s general framework and pass on to its successor the military, police, intelligence and economic branches.
5. Obstacles in the path of the deal are expected to be heaped by unwilling governments, by some Syrian rebel groups and by Iran-backed organizations operating in Syria, such as Hizballah and the Iraqi Shiite militias. The two powers decided that agreed steps would be taken for beating down these antagonists on an individual basis.
Both Obama and Putin approved the agreement when they received the final text last week. And so the implementation of this epochal entente has begun.
It is exactly five years since the onset of the “Arab Spring,” an upheaval in which Obama intervened strongly, only to step back when it veered out of control. For his new venture into Middle East politics, Obama is working for the first time with Putin, assigning him the role of front man.
The following articles in this issue of DEBKA Weekly cover the steps by the two powers and reactions in the region.

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