Movement on the Syrian front
Things are starting to move in the Syrian civil war. After many months of stagnation suddenly there seems to be movement on both the political and military fronts.
On the political front, there are reports the Group of Seven (G7) may be in the process of negotiating something that would facilitate the departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Rumours are running wild that there could be imminent major political changes in the country. What kind of change is yet to be seen but indications seem to go in the direction that this could be the beginning of the end for the regime and the start of a new chapter in Syrian history.
But there remain many unknowns and, come what may, even if the current president steps down, there will be years of fighting before the guns are silenced in Syria. The opposition is far too divided to reach an agreement and settle on a single leadership. And then there is the Islamic State (ISIS), which is not about to fold up and go away anytime soon.
Indeed, the situation across the country has reached the point of total anarchy with the proliferation of armed groups, some controlling large areas of territory, as with ISIS; others barely being able to maintain control of a single street. These are factors that will have to be dealt with eventually by the new government.
Leaders of the G7 say there might be a brief opportunity to push through a political deal that would pave the way for Assad to step down, giving way to a new coalition government. This is according to officials familiar with the discussions at the G7 summit in the Bavarian Alps.
But what must be crystal clear to the United States, the European Union and the rest of the world by now is that no solution to the crisis in Syria will be possible without direct participation of Russia.
“This could be the opportunity to get a political deal. We need Russia for this,” one of the sources said, adding that the only way for a transition would be for Assad to leave Syria.
Another G7 source said there was a feeling the situation in Syria could be on the verge of change, without giving details.
But here, as they say, is where the plot thickens. Moscow, well aware of its powers of persuasion in the Middle East, is not about to give something for nothing to the Americans and the Europeans. And helping solve the crisis In Syria, Russia is sure to ask for concessions from the West regarding Ukraine.
The question to ask is just how many concessions to Moscow the allies in the West are willing to make to settle the Middle East crisis.
The other major player in the Syrian crisis, Iran, appears to be ready and willing to reach a deal so that it can withdraw its forces currently fighting in Syria.
On the military front, Syrian government forces are not faring very well, having suffered a new setback with the loss of a major military position in the south of the country. The Southern Front alliance took control of the 52nd Brigade base in Daraa province after 24 hours of fierce clashes.
The base lies near a major highway running from Damascus to Syria’s border with Jordan and is also near the frontier with Sweida province, which is largely regime-controlled. It was one of the main lines of defence for regime forces.
The fall of the base is the latest in a string of defeats for the regime. This, of course, contributed to wild rumours circulating in the country.