Russian airstrikes have proven to be so effective in the fight against Syrian rebels that President Barack Obama’s peace process is quickly becoming irrelevant.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has no intention of stepping down and the facts on the ground are gradually starting to shift to support that objective, given strong support from the Russian Air Force over the last 3.5 months, The Washington Post reports.
Russian air involvement stalled initially because of U.S.-provided missiles to rebel groups, but those groups soon broke at constant aerial bombardment.
While the fight is not remotely over, the slight shift in favor of Syrian forces is enough to provide a bulwark around Assad, effectively frustrating the Obama administration’s push for major concessions in peace talks, which are supposed to start on Jan. 25.
Russia and Syria both object to the U.S. bringing in a host of representatives from rebel groups, as the two governments say they refuse to negotiate with terrorists. Rather, Russia wants representatives from Kurds in Syria and other forces loyal to Assad.
Meanwhile, the U.N. has said it will not send out any invitations until both Syria and the U.S. agree on who belongs at the table. So the Jan. 25 date is flexible, but Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are trying to come to a mutually agreeable solution Wednesday in Switzerland. Reports emerging from the meeting indicate that neither side intends to support a delay in the talks, but that does not mean they have come to a solution on the parties who should be involved.
Even if Russia does compromise, it’s not clear that rebels’ representatives would show up at the event, anyway, as many of them have said in a statement that they will not participate unless airstrikes on civilians come to a halt.
Additionally, these 33 rebel groups want humanitarian aid and the release of so-called political prisoners.
The Obama administration initially wanted Assad gone, but a recent meeting in December between Russia and the U.S. resulted in Kerry agreeing that the Obama administration is “not seeking so-called regime change,” which is an incredible switch from the U.S.’s past stance. This means there is far less pressure for the Russian and Syrian governments to make any concessions whatsoever to make peace talks possible. But every single day the peace talks don’t take place, the Obama administration’s plans in Syria become more precarious.
What is left of the Obama administration’s foreign policy objectives in Syria includes halting bloodshed, defeating ISIS and stopping the flood of refugees leaving Syria.
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