Dateline, Moscow, Syria – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad flew from Damascus to Russia Tuesday night to thank president Vladimir Putin for saving his life and keeping in power, for the time being.
Assad has not left Syria since the Arab Spring swept through the country in 2011. He rode out the storm for a couple of months, backed by the Obama administration and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who called him a “reformer,” before his heavy hand of suppression boomeranged into civil war.
So far, the alternative to Assad is a worse barbarian.
President Barack Obama says there will be no peace in Syria so long as Assad is in power. Fortunately, what he says means less and less in the world, especially in the Middle East and particularly in Syria, where Putin has outfoxed and out-smarted President Obama to fill the vacuum of power.
Putin’s massive military support for Assad, ostensibly to attack the Islamic State (ISIS) but in reality to protect the Assad regime from revel groups, Al Qaeda and a host of other enemies, has erased the overdone predictions that Assad is about to disappear, one way or the other.
Everyone has been saying that for four years, including Israel’s then Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who public stated that he would be toppled within six months. That was three years ago.
News of Assad’s visit was kept secret until Wednesday morning, when the Kremlin released a transcript of the Putin-Assad meeting. The Syrian president may have returned to Syria already.
Moscow is just about the only place on earth he could have visited without fearing that he might never return to Syria, unless in a coffin, if he were lucky.
The world’s “most dangerous man,” as Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Joel Brinkley once described Assad, was given a royal welcome by Putin, for whom Assad is a pawn.
Assad said during the visit:
First of all I wanted to express my huge gratitude to the whole leadership of the Russian Federation for the help they are giving Syria.
If it was not for your actions and your decisions the terrorism which is spreading in the region would have swallowed up a much greater area and spread over an even greater territory.
We are ready to make our contribution not only in the course of military actions in the fight against terrorism, but during the political process
The United States is the big loser in the Middle East chess game. It lost credibility long ago with the make-believe “peace process” that has left Kerry somewhere on another planet.
It remains to be seen whether Russia one day will be sorry for trying to be in charge of the Syrian-Iranian axis if the eternal Muslim hatred of outsiders trying to tell them what to do explodes in Moscow’s face.
For the time being, strange as it seems, Israel is a winner, despite the constant threat of Iran’s nuclear development that Russia has helped fund.
Assad is a butcher, dictator, a despot and corrupt, just like almost every other Middle East ruler. However, it was clear from the fall of Hosni Mubarak that the alternative of anarchy is even worse.
If Assad can remain in power, especially if Putin calls the shots, Israel can feel more secure that the Syrian his hatred of Israel and his threats to capture the Golan Heights will remain rhetoric.
Another bonus is that with Russia in charge, the United States will make less trouble.