Assad votes against Moscow and Washington

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Асад голосует против Москвы и Вашингтона

Held in Syria since the beginning of the second armed conflict parliamentary elections. No one doubts the victory of the forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. This should prove to not only Syria but the world that Assad is indispensable today. However, do not agree with that nobody, not even its closest ally Russia. In the long term Assad have to not only go, but to agree to fundamental changes of its political system.

Parliamentary elections will be held in the part of Syria, which is controlled by Damascus. Legally they do not affect the current international negotiation process in Geneva, which should lead to the creation of a government of national unity and the agreement between the Syrian opposition and Damascus. However, the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad this election is an opportunity to demonstrate that the country is still no other real force, which can control the political process.

Around this in Geneva are the most violent disputes. The U.S. and its allies have repeatedly stated that they would like to depose him. Russia and its supporters in the negotiations will counter that without the current Syrian President will only get worse. However, even Moscow said that, in principle, not against the departure of Assad if his regime will remain intact.

For the first time that the President of Syria crossed the “red line” and must resign, President Barack Obama said in 2012. The statement was made after Assad’s forces, according to American side that used chemical weapons against civilians. The President of Russia Vladimir Putin then offered to rid Syria of chemical weapons and actually saved Assad from invading the USA.

The history of the removal of Assad even formed the plot of one of the episodes of “homeland,” a popular American TV series about the secret services. In the USA find a successor to Assad from among the generals closest to him. Learning of this, Soviet agent inside the CIA destroys the plane with the successor and his family.

Although the on-screen speculation is far from reality, the White house is making no secret that he tends to shift Assad from his post. One of the senior Russian diplomats explained that the U.S. plans are as follows: to remove from power of Assad and the most notorious figures of his entourage, but keep the management structure of the army and the security services. However, this plan is easier to declare than to realize.

Odious personality

“I started working in the Soviet Embassy in Syria shortly before the Yom Kippur war, in 1973. There was a lot of work. Several times in Damascus came Gromyko (Andrei Gromyko at that time was the head of the Soviet Foreign Ministry. — “Газета.Ru”), it was necessary to translate, including negotiations at the highest level”, — says Veniamin Popov, former Russian Ambassador to the Arab republics and Director of the Center for partnership of civilizations MGIMO. At that time the Soviet and Syrian diplomats have developed an efficient way to keep in touch: through the chief of the office of the President of Syria named Mohammed, Daaboul, says the source “Газеты.Ru”. He addressed all the important issues, and he promptly answered them after consultation with the President.

“In 2015, when I met with Syrian diplomats, and tried to understand how the changed political system in Damascus, I asked them, and who is now the chief of staff? — Popov continues. — And what was my surprise when I was told that it is the same Mohammad Daaboul! This fact amply demonstrates how the monolithic system, the Syrian government, which was created by the father of the current President, Hafez al-Assad”.

The current regime headed by Bashar al-Assad has survived two major crises — in 2012 and 2015. Four years ago, when the military conflict in Syria has swept the whole country, from the explosion in Central Damascus killed a major General assef Shawkat, brother-in-law of Bashar al-Assad, who held the positions of Deputy Minister of defense of Syria and the chief of intelligence. The same blast killed several senior politicians and security officials of the older generation that towered even if Bashar father, President Hafez al-Assad.

In the same year, from Damascus fled Brigadier General Manaf Tlass, who was friends with Bashar Assad with youth.

Last year there was another serious conflict among members of the “inner circle” Asadov. In may 2015 on charges of attempted coup arrested Ali mamlouk, Director of the powerful General security Directorate, Syria. Earlier on the orders of General Rafiq of Shehadi was detained and beaten to death by another reputable law enforcers, head of the political security (intelligence) rustum Ghazali.

According to local press, the Mamluk was associated with the murder Ghazali, and the conflict summit in Damascus reflected the struggle of the Turkish and Iranian intelligence for influence in the inner circle of Assad clan. According to this version, the Mamluk worked in Ankara and could not allow further strengthening of Tehran’s influence, which plays first fiddle in Damascus.

“At a time when Assad was in power, there were many mistakes, — said Popov. — Had faster and deeper reforms, to allow the authorities more political powers. Then, probably could have been avoided including the current armed crisis.”

However, to date, the Syrian regime is under such pressure that the authorities of Bashar al-Assad already is no threat, says Popov. According to him, shuffling the ruling circles in Syria only if Assad physically unable to continue to rule. Without the Assad meanwhile, the perspective of Damascus misty system.

Brother insure

“If Bashar al-Assad anything happens, his place is likely to take his brother Maher al-Assad — told “Газете.Ru” a diplomatic source close to the Syrian negotiation process. — The person who may replace the incumbent President and to retain the current system of government, must be alavita, a native of the armed forces and as close to the Assad family”.

Maher meets all these requirements. The youngest son of the previous President of Syria Hafez al-Assad, he in 1994 was considered a likely successor to his father. Then in the car crash killed the eldest son of Hafez, Basil, a brilliant military officer, who was proud of his father and respected army. Syria has lost the main heir to the throne, and Hafez al-Assad had to choose between two other sons.

Maher, like Basil, had learned in the military and, like his brother, wanted to become the backbone of the Syrian authorities. However, when the Basil died, Maher was only 16 years old, and Hafez al-Assad made a bid for middle son — Bashar.

The same in the 1990s could hardly imagine that his fate will be tied to the fate of all Syria, he made a career of ophthalmologist in Europe and even took a pseudonym, so that no one knew about his connection with the ruling clan of Syria.

Now Maher al-Assad is considered to be the chief security officer of the country and is headed by the Republican guard of Syria. Witnesses said that Maher is much more explosive than his brother, and it’s not good for him as a politician. In 2011, when against the Assad regime that the wave of popular anger, the local social network spread a video in which Maher al-Assad personally fired a machine gun in the direction of protesters in Damascus. In addition, there are suspicions, including that expressed at UN level that Maher is associated with the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which occurred in 2005.

On these grounds the US and the EU imposed against Maher sanctions and now just do not consider him to be the man who could replace Bashar al-Assad in negotiations.

Another anonymous source familiar with the Syrian political process, said “Газете.Ru” that the nomination of Maher as a successor to Bashar al-Assad is far from ideal. “Today it is obvious that Syria does not have a really powerful political figures, which could cement the regime, he said. — In Egypt after the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak remained Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who after a short period of political uncertainty and became President of the country. In Syria, figures of such level did not”.

One of the former Russian diplomats who know the Syrian elite, notes that during the purges carried out within the ruling class, many members of the intelligence services, including those loyal to Russia, were thrown out of power.

The only notable representative of the former Syrian elite, living in Moscow, is a former Deputy Prime Minister of Syria Qadri Jamil. However, as a serious player it is not considered.

The source “Газеты.Ru” also added that while concrete negotiations on the figures that can replace Assad, carried out. “Don’t get hung up on Assad, he said. We have to keep that in mind, but the important thing now is to focus on the establishment of the transitional authority to control Syria”.

Another former diplomat, who held high positions in the Russian foreign Ministry, with this statement, agree: “Now it’s impractical to do any testing in the modern world too will be known to the other parties.”

In Moscow take the position that the departure of Assad should not be a precondition for starting negotiations on the establishment of the new government in Syria. According to the source, if Moscow began to actively seek a replacement for Assad, it would have been a bone of contention among the alawites, the religious group to which belongs the Assad clan.

The search for compromise figures and complicated by ethnic and religious reasons. After the departure of Assad any other Alawite as President is unlikely to hold under control the Syrian majority — the Sunnis, many of which are now in the armed opposition.

In addition, the new Syrian leader is unlikely to be able to control the entire country in its former borders. The power of the heir al-Assad will only apply to the Alawite enclave. The Syrian Kurds have already announced the creation of the Federation of Northern Syria, in fact, independent from Damascus. The majority of interlocutors “Газеты.Ru” we are confident that the usual form in Syria already exist will not.

A surprise from Syria

Demand the White house to depose him linked to the Geneva talks is not in the first place. Perfect for the American administration, if Assad will leave in the autumn, before coordination of the unified Syrian elections in Geneva. The fact that it will be a good pre-election trump card in the U.S. and will increase the chances of winning Democrats and their main favorite Hillary Clinton, who are ready to replace the incumbent, Democrat Barack Obama.

In American political culture such things are called “October surprise”. This is a resonant political event that significantly affects the course of voting. As a rule, the White house presents these “surprises” to the electorate a month before the November vote.

For example, during the second presidential campaign of George W. Bush in October 2004, the U.S. released videos of the “terrorist number one”, head of the banned in Russia “al-Qaeda” Osama bin Laden. In the video he first took responsibility for the September 11, 2001. It is believed that this record was one of the factors that contributed to the re-election of President Bush for a second term.

In Moscow make it clear that not want to help Americans to strengthen the popularity of Clinton in pre-election period with Assad. While the Kremlin on the Syrian President also maintains a pragmatic approach. This was particularly evident after Assad, emboldened by the military success of their armies, with the support of Russian aviation, in March announced its intention to fight until, until you return all Syrian territory. According to some experts, this statement caused irritation in Moscow and expedite the decision on the reduction of domestic military presence in Syria.

So the departure of Assad will not benefit none of the countries interested in the Syrian process, consider not only the official Moscow and its allies in Geneva, but part of the American expert community. “This week we discussed ideas for further progress on Syria with American experts from the Carter Fund. They brought some curious ideas, — told “Газете.Ru” Veniamin Popov. As we in Washington consider that at the time of the transition period must renounce the old Constitution of Syria, so as not to cause anyone unpleasant associations, and write a completely new one, which will be valid only until the establishment of a government of national unity”.

According to Popov, which is associated with the Geneva diplomatic process and participated in the Moscow talks with the Syrian opposition last year, American diplomats are ready to consider a variant in which the Syrian President will remain in his position, but will run the country in parallel with a collegial body established as a result of the Geneva talks.

“The problem is that in Geneva now with Damascus are negotiating a large number of representatives of the Syrian opposition, who have long lived in exile, for example in Riyadh or Turkey. Many of them have lost touch with Syrian reality, believes Veniamin Popov. But when in Syria after five years of conflict, the majority concludes that under current conditions we have to choose between bad and very bad. Therefore, at this stage, even if Assad was not to rig the results of the vote, the majority still voted for him.” However, it is only about the territory that Assad currently controls. Regardless of the outcome of the election on 13 April the Geneva negotiations will take into account the real situation in Syria, where they still continue fighting.

According to Elena Suponina, Advisor to the Director of the Russian Institute for strategic studies, Damascus must prepare for “a new political system, which implies a reduction of the President’s powers while extending the influence of the Parliament”. When Assad passage in Parliament of any genuine opposition parties closed. Would the Syrian President to remain in power, watching as they melt, his powers will be known in August. By this time, the negotiators in Geneva should publish first document on the future of Syria. It will decide the fate of Bashar al-Assad.

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