Russia’s multifaceted involvement in the Syrian war has now tipped the advantage decisively in favor of the government led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Its well-considered system of local ceasefires and “reconciliations”—little more than glorified surrenders—between the regime and all manner of defeated members of the opposition has been fortified by a “de-escalation” regime, joined by Turkish, Iranian, and American junior partners in expanding perimeters throughout the country.
This effort is capped by a Russian-led diplomatic juggernaut in the Kazakh capital of Astana that is out-performing the moribund U.S.-led Geneva process. Russian President Vladimir Putin has defined Russian objectives clearly and resolutely, and marshaled inferior resources with skill and determination—much to the consternation of Washington.
All Syrians, including the Kurds, share this nationalist legacy, which argues against a quixotic post-war U.S. effort to weaken the power of the center in favor of sectarian interests on the periphery. At the appropriate time, when the Kurds in eastern Syria, whose dream of independence has been dashed on all fronts, will make their way back to Damascus. In key respects they have never left. Unlike many in the Opposition, they are prepared to attend the Sochi conference, continuing an uneasy engagement with Damascus about governance that is as old as the modern Syrian state.
Notwithstanding the current U.S. fascination with the Kurds’ separatist prospects, the best future for all Syrians lies in a unified country under conditions in which a government in Damascus is strong enough to make concessions in their favor.
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