Syria: Madrid and Vienna break taboo, dialogue with Assad

ISIS and migration impose strategy change

09 September, 12:18

    (by Francesco Cerri) (ANSAmed) - MADRID, SEPTEMBER 9 - After four years of war, 250,000 deaths, infinite murders, rapes, torture and other atrocities by the men of 'caliph' al Baghdadi, with tens of thousands of refugees arriving in Europe, is it time to change strategy and talk with Bashar al Assad? Many analysts think so, the idea is handled with caution by several foreign ministries and the government of Madrid and Vienna are now openly supporting such an option.

    In Tehran, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Garcia Margallo clearly stated that ''the time has come to start negotiations with the regime of Bashar al Assad''. His Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz echoed his words from Dubai: ''we need a pragmatic approach including an involvement of Assad in the fight against ISIS terror''. He added that Russia and Iran, the two powers backing Assad, must also be involved.

    Madrid and Vienna are breaking the taboo of the Syrian president's demonization with whom the West, pushed by the 'Sunni axis' Turkey, Saudi Arabia-Qatar - has broken bridges for the past four years.

    In the wake of the 'Arab springs' Assad - promised his former friend Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was at the time a prime minister and now serves as Turkey's Islamic president - would have quickly fallen, toppled by 'democratic' Sunni rebels presented as heirs of those demonstrating for freedom.

    The project sponsored by Ankara, Doha and Riyadh was to replace him with an Islamic Sunni government of the Muslim Brotherhood. But things went differently. The authoritarian regime of the Alawite Assad did not fall, actually maintaining support in particular among minorities (Shiites, Alawites, Christians and Yazidis). And 'democratic' rebels entered the ranks mostly of jihadist groups, notably ISIS and Al Nusra-Al Qaida.

    The expansion of the 'caliphate', with its atrocities, has become an existential threat not just for Syria and Iraq, but for the entire Middle East, from Turkey to Yemen, for North Africa, from Libya to Mali, and now for Europe.

    The risk of attacks is high, without mentioning the destabilizing effects of the biblical exodus of tens of thousands of desperate people. ''They are not fleeing Assad's regime but the atrocities of ISIS'', noted Vladimir Putin.

    For Washington, which has been bombing jihadists in Iraq and Syria for a year, the enemy isn't Assad anymore but Al Baghdadi.

    Long accused of helping the jihadists, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, now threatened by ISIS, have adhered to the Coalition.

    And the refugee crisis is leading Paris and London to plan anti-ISIS raids on Syria which they had ruled out so far so as not to help the regime.

    ''The question of Assad's departure will be posed sooner or later'', said yesterday French President Francois Hollande.

    Putin said Assad is ready to make concessions, to open the government to ''healthy opposition'', or non-jihadist opponents, and call elections.

    ''The nuclear agreement with Tehran is radically changing the game'', said Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter. Iran is once again a key interlocutor, with the leverage of representing a huge market for the West.

    But if peace talks appear possible with Damascus, previous attempts have shown they are impossible and unthinkable with ISIS. A military option - and the destruction of the 'caliphate' - needs everybody: from the Coalition's planes to Kurdish and Shiite militias, the only ones so far fighting on the ground against the jihadists with the army of Damascus. ''We cannot forget Assad's crimes nor that we are on the same side in this war'', noted Kurz. (ANSAmed).

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