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The Assad Dividend: Why Putin and Obama will never see eye-to-eye

The fundamental differences in outlook between a US committed to regime change and a Russia defending peace and stability, makes true agreement between the two countries and their leaders impossible.

The only thing surprising about the recent meeting between Putin and Obama is that anyone found the outcome surprising.

In short nothing happened for the simple reason that both sides have invested too much in two entirely different goals in Syria for either to make any meaningful concessions.

But whilst this business analogy explains the deadlock behind the process, this is where the corporate analogy ends.

In Syria, Russia has invested in stability, secularism, the popular will of the vast majority of Syrians and dignity for one of the last truly independent Arab states. By contrast, Obama and Hillary Clinton have invested in terrorism, chaos, extremism, theocracy, instability and illegal foreign infiltration into a sovereign state. The moral dividends of the two investments are clear.

For years now, the Obama government have been ploughing resources into arming anyone and everyone opposed to the legitimate rule of Assad (think Ukraine, where no faction was too vile to be pushed into the spotlight by America and Europe).

These include foreign Wahhabi fighters who go by various names at various times, but essentially it’s the same set of people.

Whilst Turkey has acted as a kind of ‘Royal Bank of ISIS’ laundering their revenue from oil sales, Turkey has slightly softened its tone against Assad as  Ankara begins to realise the limits of Turkish regional influence.

It has finally dawned on Sultan Erdogan that Assad may be the last capable buffer between Turkey and a monumental Kurdish insurrection inside Turkish borders and this of course worries Turkey a great deal.

Yet for America, like their Saudi partners, destroying a regime which is economically independent of the Western-Gulf axis, a country which pursues an independent foreign policy and one whose secularism is both an ideological and pragmatic bulwark against the religious obscurantism of the Gulf states, remains the priority: ‘Assad must go’.

America has paid a lot for Assad to go. In spite of this he will likely be in power long after Obama, Merkel and Holland exit the world’s stage under a cloud of ignominy and embarrassment.

David Cameron who so vigorously called for Assad’s removal has already been consigned to the dustbin of history thanks to his ill-conceived Brexit gamble.

For Russia it is of paramount importance that Syria must be free from terrorism, free from foreign fighters and that this fight must be conducted in accordance with international law. This translates easily into the phrase ‘Assad must stay’ and more importantly ‘The Syrian constitution must not be overthrown by external force’.

In a strange way, by provoking a war before being able to orchestrate a coup against Assad, America helped insure that Russia would help the legitimate government of Syria to remain in control.

In Ukraine, they did this the other way round. First America engineered a coup in Kiev which achieved its aim of overthrowing the legitimate government, and then came the war, a war in which Russia has mediated in but has never participated in.

If in Ukraine the US had armed various far-right/neo-fascist battalions to raise hell in parts of Eastern Ukraine whilst Yanukovych was in power, things would have been different.

Russia is not a power easily drawn into war, but when a legitimate authority asks for aid, Russia will often come to the defence of an ally.

In this sense the US got it all wrong in Syria. By setting Syria aflame but without the resources to actually over throw Assad or force him into hiding, the US have insured his survival.

Obama will never climb down from his investment. He will insist that Assad go, if for no other reason than to justify the protracted American campaign to oust him.

But like so many investments from Vietnam to Libya, money does not equal true success, and it certainly does not equal justice or morality.

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