West changes its stance on Syria’s Assad regime

West changes its stance on Syria’s Assad regime

US President Barack Obama sent Congress a draft resolution authorising the deployment of troops in Iraq to fight the Islamic terrorist group ISIS.

ISIS - the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - occupies large parts of Iraq but has its main bases in Syria, where it controls important areas. Several different groups - including ISIS - are fighting the regime of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, and this opposition is fighting among themselves.

The US used to train, militarily, groups fighting the Assad regime. Now it is training them to fight ISIS in Syria, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.

While America bombs ISIS targets in Syria, it is said to have assured the Assad government, via intermediaries, that Syria’s troops are not the target.

The United Nations and Russia are both attempting to pull together settlement and peace agendas for Syria, but they are making little headway.

But has the West’s attitude towards President al-Assad's regime changed?

The immediate removal of the Assad regime was the main objective and a pre-condition at peace talks between the Syrian opposition, the US and Europe in Switzerland in January 2014.

GIS wrote in a statement on January 23, 2014, ‘Success needs compromise in Syrian peace talks’. We said that peace talks with pre-conditions would not succeed, and regime change without a strategy for the future would fail.

ISIS emerged strongly in May 2014 and GIS posed the question on June 30, 2014, whether Syria's al-Assad was an option among several evils? GIS concluded that President al-Assad’s regime might be accepted as a potential ally by the West in the fight against ISIS. It asked what face-saving operations would be needed for this change of policy.

What is certain is that ground troops fighting ISIS will be unsuccessful without attacking ISIS in Syria. In this context, regime change in Syria is not the first priority for America and its European allies any more.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is reported to have welcomed the two peace initiatives in Syria and has made no call for President al-Assad's resignation. This is a notable omission as he has always insisted on this in previous public remarks. Instead, he spoke of President al-Assad as a leader who needs to change his policies.

French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, has said that ‘the political solution (in Syria) will of course include some elements of the regime (Assad) because we don't want the pillars of the state to fall apart. We would end up with a situation like Iraq’.

A certain acceptance of the Assad regime is being considered by Western governments, it seems. The president’s immediate removal is no longer a pre-condition. The emphasis is on gradual change while making the fight against ISIS the priority.

Now there is a risk of antagonising some of Syria’s non-ISIS opposition, which could feel betrayed. It also demonstrates the danger of looking for regime change, without alternatives which are well-grounded and accepted by the population.

Related reports:Success needs compromise in Syrian peace talks

Syria’s al-Assad – an option among several evils?

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