January 23

Syria solution may hinge on Assad’s fate

The Obama administration’s insistence on the Syrian president’s departure is unacceptable, his supporters say.

By Patrick J. Mcdonnell
Los Angeles Times

(Continued from page 1)

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A demonstrator clenches a fist in front of a photo of Syrian President Bashar Assad on Wednesday in Montreux, Switzerland, where the Geneva II peace talks aimed at ending the country’s brutal conflict are taking place. When the question of Assad’s future as its leader comes up, Syria digs in its heels.

The Associated Press

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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, front right, and Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, left, deliver speeches during a break in the peace talks in Montreux on Wednesday.

The Associated Press

President Obama stated publicly in August 2011 that Assad should step down from office. Expectations in Washington and other global capitals that Assad’s trajectory would mirror the relatively quick exits of Egyptian and Tunisian strongmen caught in “Arab Spring” uprisings were off base. Unlike in Tunisia and Egypt, the Syrian military backed Assad and carried out his crackdown on dissent.

Despite its oft-stated antipathy toward Assad, Washington has also shown a willingness to work with his government when necessary. The deal reached last year to avert U.S. airstrikes was contingent on Assad’s willingness to renounce his chemical weapons stockpiles under international supervision.

Some observers, notably Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. ambassador to a number of Mideast and South Asian countries, have said that Assad is unlikely to fall and it would be wise for Washington to engage his government as an alternative to Islamic radicals. But Kerry’s comments in Montreux indicate that the U.S. remains intent on Assad’s departure.

Kerry regularly cites the “Geneva communique,” a kind of peace road map hammered out in June 2012 during a United Nations-organized summit.

But the document does not explicitly call for Assad’s ouster..

In Syria’s view, it is Washington and its allies who are violating the spirit of Geneva by focusing on one aspect – the removal of Assad – that the accord did not explicitly call for. With Moscow backing Syria’s interpretation of the Geneva communique, the barrier to forcing Assad’s ouster would seem a formidable one.

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