Syria Daily: Putin Stepping Back from Assad?


Putin says Syrian people “divided” and discusses safe zones with Trump


In a day of Russian diplomatic initiatives, President Vladimir Putin has given the first public hint that he may not be committed to the long-term stay of Bashar al-Assad in office in Syria.

Speaking at a joint news conference after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin restated the standard Russian line that the “Syrian people” should determine the future, but he then introduced a new clause, “Obviously this people is split.”

The President continued, “We see big problems in Syrian society and our task is to create conditions for consolidation, for cessation of hostilities, for cessation of mutual destruction, for political dialogue of all conflicting forces.”

Russian officials have privately said that they are not wedded to Assad in power, as long as the Syrian state is favorable to Moscow’s interests, but the Kremlin has always avoided this explanation in public.

Putin restated Russia’s supposed commmitment to a ceasefire — in the face of its escalation in bombing of opposition areas — and said, “We are confident that a solution to the Syrian problem can be found only through United Nations brokered peace talks.”

He also maintained Moscow’s double line on the April 4 chemical attack by the Assad regime on Khan Sheikhoun in northern Syria. Although Russia vetoed a Security Council mandate for the Assad regime to cooperate with an international investigation, he declared:

We resolutely condemn any use of chemical weapons.

Naturally, those responsible for the death of Syrians must be found and punished. But it should be done only after a thorough and unbiased investigation.

Putin later spoke to Donald Trump, in what both the Kremlin and White House said was a productive discussions. A “senior Trump administration official” said Putin had requested the call to present his ideas for Syria. It was the first contact between the two men since an April 7 US missile on an Assad regime airbase, responding to the regime’s deadly chemical attack on a town in northwest Syria three days earlier.

The White House said that the two leaders agreed that “all parties must do all they can to end the violence”: “The conversation was a very good one, and included the discussion of safe, or de-escalation, zones to achieve lasting peace for humanitarian and many other reasons.”

The reference to the safe zones paralleled reports in Russian media that Moscow is proposing the safe zones — previously resisted by the Assad regime — with Russian, Iranian, and Turkish troops providing security on the ground.

Yahya al-Aridi, a senior opposition representative, said Putin’s Syria envoy, Alexander Lavrentiev, presented the plan for four buffer zones at a meeting with anti-Assad groups last week in Ankara.

The White House said Washington will send a representative to political talks in the Kazakhstan capital on Wednesday and Thursday, the first American involvement since the US was sidelined by Russia and Turkey last autumn and the talks were launched in January.

The State Department said acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones will attend as an observer.

At the conference with Merkel, Putin said:

Without the participation of a country such as the US, it’s impossible to resolve this problem effectively.

We will continue to be in contact with our American partners and we hope to reach an understanding on joint steps in this important and sensitive field.

The Russian President’s initiative continues today as he hosts Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Sochi.

Syria’s Women Activists: “We Are on the Frontlines of Fighting Terrorism”

A clip from the interview of three Syrian women activists — Noha Alkamcha, Yasmin Kayali Sabra, and Zaina Erhaim — on the US Public Broadcasting Service’s Charlie Rose Show:

Russian Lieutenant Colonel Killed by Sniper

A Russian Lieutenant Colonel has been killed by a sniper.

“Militants’ gunfire at a unit of Syrian troops has claimed the life of Lieutenant Colonel Alexei Buchelnikov,” the Defense Ministry said on Tuesday. “Alexei Buchelnikov was delegated to Syria as a member of the group of Russian military advisors. He had a duty of training the personnel of a Syrian armed unit.”

Russian losses have risen sharply since the start of the year, particularly in central Syria near the city of Palmyra, recaptured by pro-Assad forces from ISIS in March.

The Defense Ministry has minimized the losses, ignoring the death of troops working for private military contractors. While Reuters documented the loss of at least 21 personnel from late January to late March, the Ministry admitted to only 5.

Aid Into Besieged, Bombarded Douma for 1st Time Since October

An aid convoy of food and medical supplies has reached the besieged opposition town of Douma, northeast of Damascus, for the first time since October.

The Red Cross said on Tuesday that it delivered the assistance with the UN and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

Douma, the center of the leading rebel faction Jaish al-Islam, has been cut off since 2013 and bombarded for months as the Assad regime tries to break resistance and overrun the town.

Since spring 2016, pro-Assad forces have taken most of the East Ghouta area. They are currently trying to capture Damascus suburbs such as Qaboun, Barzeh, and Tishreen and bombing throughout opposition territory.

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  1. And so the partition of Syria begins. Expected outcome. In my opinion this was and is the only solution for Syria as of today.

      • Bashar is told even when its time he can take a leak….if the russians pull the plug he is done.

    • It isn’t partition, it’s what Trump announced at the beginning of his Presidency, safe zones. The aim is to take the fire out of the rebels and eventually disarm them. It’s working with Hamas, who just announced recognition of 1967 borders. It took a long time, but they got there eventually, and people who said that from the beginning Hamas were on the path to becoming Israel’s guardians were proved right. The same idea in Syria, where the plan is for the rebels to eventually become the regime’s guardians. Lack of understanding of the reality of politics is what leads these movements to defeat, however in Syria some are still aware of what’s really going on.

      Trump also talked about North Korea in his phone call with Putin. This is more significant, because Tillerson also discussed North Korea with Putin in his meeting. The diplomatic moves are afoot to give Russia a greater role in North Korea and a smaller role in Syria. The US will take on Kim Jong Un, but get Russia to do the heavy lifting against this so-called ally. Kim Jong Un better watch his back !

  2. A pair of interesting articles:
    1) This article questions the viability of the rebel’s “Idlib redoubt” strategy (ie heavily fortifying Idlib in order to successfully defend it) by analysing and explaining why it’s so flawed –
    Excerpt from the above link: “The military direction of the Syrian government after Aleppo is becoming clear. The negotiations in Geneva and Astana are simply buying the Syrian regime and Russia the time they need to retake as much territory in Syria as militarily possible. Establishing authority over restive regions has been a challenge for Syrian leaders in Damascus. Adib Shishakli was remembered prominently for his violent confrontation with the Druze in 1954. Indeed since the 1960’s, Idlib province has always had relatively weak ties with the Baath Party’s state system…Regime forces would need to cut off Idlib’s access to Hatay, including the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, in order to fully implement an encirclement of Idlib’s rebels.
    “…Still, there are convincing reasons why Syrian military planners prefer sieges. First of all, a siege favors the army with the greater economic power. While in an open field battle, the outcome is less secure and sometimes the stronger side is defeated by the opponent’s superior tactics or mobility. With a siege they can play it safe.The decisive weapons in siege warfare are the artillery and air power. A military that possesses these assets will be more inclined to engage in siege warfare.
    “Idlib, however, is not Aleppo or Mosul. It is much smaller in size, with a prewar population of only 165,000 (compared to Aleppo’s 1.8 million) and, due to its small territory, there is simply not enough depth to mount an effective defense. Additionally, the city’s geographical location, situated in a basin, makes it very easy for the attackers to direct their artillery fire and air strikes. Barrel bombs and heavy artillery would have a devastating effect on Idlib’s mostly two on three story buildings…To operate in a hostile environment, a military needs armor. The Syrian Army is well equipped to do this job: they still boast a capable tank force, mainly consisting of Russian and Soviet era T-55, T-62 tanks but they also have been recently reinforced by new Russian deliveries of T-72’s and an unknown number of the formidable T-90 Main Battle Tank. The Russian arms manufacturer, UralVagonZavod has reported a record level of tank sales to Syria. Artillery will also be the Syrian army’s biggest asset in an upcoming battle. With at least 2,000 artillery pieces, it will be the decisive weapon in an eventual attack Idlib or any other city in Syria.”
    Ominous warning.
    2) This second article is an interesting review (presumably from an ex-military type?) about guerilla night-time operations:

  3. Partition? Are you seriously on the same planet?

    It is not up for discussion.

    Syria is one of the most united peoples behind its president. Besides there is very little argument along religious or ethnic lines. No partition of Syria would work. It is a dream of the extremists who wish to impose an islamic state – and West its pipeline dreams and cold war obsessions..

    The obvious solution is not up to Trump, Obama, Cameron,or some clown in Tel Aviv.- the Syrian people will decide and they are very much behind Assad. They don’t want Al Qeada.

    More wishful thinking by the mainstream blockheads.

    • “Syria is one of the most united peoples behind its president.”
      So why does Assad have to bomb, gas, torture, rape and kill his own people to keep his position as gang leader of the Sarin Regime? Why does have to enlist the help of the Iranians and Russians to butcher his own people? Why is he unable to raise an army from his 22 million people and have to use mercenaries and jihadists from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Russia, Pakistan and many other countries? He is a thug who is despised by the majority of Syrians and the sooner he is crucified by them the better!

  4. By the way, I forgot to ask the armchair experts above on what possible grounds are there for partition.

    The Middle East was partitioned in 1917. Unless there is a serous religious,ethnic divide (internally) leave it alone, As far as I can see more people like Assad than the 40% or so who would elect a UK leader.

    The will of Turkey, Qatar, UK, US, Saudi Arabia,,ISIS and Al Qeada should not come into it. After all, the UK would not accept a few miltants in Bradford supported by terrorist states proposing something equally stupid and ill thought out.

    The Syrians decide their future – no one else. If someone tries to decide for them, it will honestly result in World War 3. Anyone who has studied this conflict can see the serious danger here,

    • Stop killing Syrians and let them decide then. Oh, thats right, you dont want the syrians to decide, you just want to kill them and rule from fear

  5. “Without the participation of a country such as the US, it’s impossible to resolve this problem effectively.”
    Reality kicks in, so much for snubbing the US… now Putin is “politely begging” for our involvement…

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