US U-turn on Syria

Recent statements made by US Secretary of State John Kerry suggest that US policy towards the Syrian crisis is nearing that of Russia and moving away from the vision adopted by its Gulf allies.

Speaking in Oslo, the US secretary said: 'What the US and the world want is to stop the killing in Syria.' He added, 'Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should sit with the leaders of the Syrian opposition at the negotiating table to form a transitional government, according to the framework agreement concluded in Geneva.'

Such statements tell us that the US administration, during its second term, has turned to adopt a different position to the Syrian crisis, looking to achieve a political solution.

The US Secretary of State did not stipulate that the resignation of the Syrian president was a pre-condition condition for any political solution for the Syrian crisis during the press conference. He did not say that the Syrian regime or its representatives should sit with the Syrian opposition at the negotiating table, while he said Assad should negotiate with the opposition. The statement is essentially American recognition of the legitimacy of the Syrian regime.

To be more clear, we should remind ourselves that for the last two years, President Obama told the world that President Assad had lost his legitimacy, stressing that he should leave the power. However, he has not said anything of the sort for the last five months.

Kerry’s statements coincided with the postponement of a Syrian opposition conference scheduled to be held in Istanbul last week to form a temporary government to rule the liberated areas in Aleppo, Idlib, Maart el-Noman, and parties of Deir el-Zour in north-east Syria.

The US administration is expected to support negotiations between the Syrian regime and the opposition, to form a transitional national unity government with expanding authorities that would include ministers from both camps.

News from meetings of the Syrian opposition revealed that the coalition was struggling to come to agreement. The Syrian opposition may fail to form a temporary government to occupy Syria’s seat in the Arab League during the upcoming summit in Doha, due to the conflict between the different wings. They have, up until now, failed to reach consensus on who the main candidate for the position of the prime minister of the Syrian opposition.

Sources close to Moaz al-Khatib have revealed that the opposition leader is preparing to submit his resignation in Istanbul. If he decides to retreat from such a step, it would be a result of Arab and international pressure. Al-Khatib is reportedly frustrated by the current conflict within the Syrian opposition.

The Syrian position is delicate for many reasons, including the failure of efforts to unify the Syrian opposition, and fears of the increasing influence of the extremist al-Nusra Front. Thousands of young Syrians have already rallied in support of the Front, because it offers a living and humanitarian services to them.

The next few days are likely to see a number of surprises as both the US and Europe have stopped shot of providing arms to the Syrian opposition, fearing that the Syrian extremist movements could get their hands on the weapons.

In the future, we're likely to see harmonious relations between the Syrian regime and the US, to pave the way for achieving the Russian-American agreement.