Western slogan ‘Assad must go’ no longer tenable

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (L ) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry smile during a news conference at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, December 18, 2015. © Eduardo Munoz
The Western powers were forced to admit that the Assad government enjoys some popular support in Syria. They had to change their position once Russia moved in militarily and altered the dynamic in Syria, Brian Becker from the anti-war Answer Coalition told RT.

RT: How optimistic should we now be about the conflict in Syria ending, given consecutive UN resolutions have been passed?

Brian Becker: Well, the UN resolution is an important step. It comes on the heels of the Vienna II Summit, which also laid out a road map for peace that allows for ceasefires, perhaps local ceasefires, followed by and concomitant with a negotiating process with some parts of the opposition and the Assad government, and finally elections for a government of national unity.

But there are still vast differences: the US, Britain and France, and particularly their allies in Turkey and Saudi Arabia, are still supporting armed opposition groups who the Assad government and the Russian government, deemed to be terrorist organizations, and I think are indeed terrorist organizations and have been working with Western and foreign powers to overthrow the Assad government.

So there is a lot that still remains to be seen as to whether or not this process will lock in. There are major obstacles to it. What it does represent is recognition by the Obama administration about the abject failure of its previous policy, which focused exclusively on overthrowing the Assad government, as they had earlier with the [Muammar] Gaddafi government in Libya, and as [George] Bush did with Saddam Hussein in Iraq. That policy is a complete abject failure, a catastrophe.

RT: The peace plan implies a Syrian election within 18 months, and it doesn't rule out Assad taking part. Do you think it will still be a stumbling block?

BB: It is recognition by the Western powers who have demanded “Assad must go!” - that has been their mantra - that that’s no longer tenable. Not only did the Assad government have a big base of popular support - of course it has opponents - but it has a big base of popular support. The Syrian Arab Army has remained intact, and that is a multi-ethnic force. And Syria has international allies, in particular Russia. So the idea that the Assad government would be overthrown… turned out not to be true.

Once Russia moved in militarily that irreversibly changed the military dynamic, showing for sure that the Assad government would not be able to be overthrown by Western powers. That’s required the Obama administration to make a major adjustment in its foreign policy and now with the threat of ISIL obviously not contained, obviously not the ‘JV team,’ the Obama administration has had to shift its posture, not just its rhetoric but its actual position regarding Assad.

RT: UN members still disagree about which groups are actually terrorist organizations in Syria. Why are they taking so long to decide who the terrorists are?

BB: In fact, the Saudis have functioned as the lifeline for ISIL, for Al-Qaeda, for the Army of Conquest. So has the Turkish government. Turkey is the eastern flank of NATO, the second largest military in NATO, the principle ally of the US in that part of the Middle East. These terrorist armies have functioned as the proxies of the regional allies of the US, Britain and France. The US, even if it wants them to back off, doesn’t have an easy job of it. Of course that is not the priority of the Turkish government or the Saudi government. They have been pulled, kicking and screaming into the negotiations, and I think they still want to sabotage it.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.