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Obama Sees Slight Opportunity For Progress In Syria With Russia

22 August 2015

By James Blackwell

US President Barack Obama believes Bashar al-Assad's backers in Moscow and Tehran may see the writing is on the wall for the Syrian regime, offering rare hope for a resolution to a bloody civil war.

Speaking to columnists in the White House on Wednesday to sell his nuclear deal with Iran, Obama also offered a glimmer of optimism about the dire situation in Syria.

"I do think the window has opened a crack for us to get a political resolution in Syria," Obama said, according to Robin Wright of the New Yorker, one of those present.

"Partly because both Russia and Iran, I think, recognize that the trend lines are not good for Assad. Neither of those patrons are particularly sentimental," he was quoted as saying.

"They don't seem concerned about the humanitarian disaster that's been wrought by Assad and this conflict over the last several years. But they are concerned about the potential collapse of the Syrian state.

"And that means, I think, the prospect of more serious discussions than we've had in the past."

Syria's brutal civil war is now in its fifth year and has claimed more than 240,000 lives.

Repeated diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict have failed in the early stages.

But in a sign that global powers may be edging closer to ending the divisions that have fuelled the war, the United Nations Security Council on Friday unanimously adopted a resolution on the subject.

The US-drafted resolution sets up a panel to identify who is behind deadly chlorine gas attacks in Syria that the West blames on the Damascus regime.

Russia, Syria's veto-wielding ally, endorsed the measure as did the rest of the 15-member council -- a rare display of unity over how to address the conflict.

But both Obama's tempered optimism and the resolution stop well short of sketching an end to a conflict that has destabilized the entire Middle East.

"How to execute an actual transition is very difficult," Obama warned.

What began as an uprising against the Assad regime has metastasized into a sectarian conflict with an array of militia belligerents and networks of alliances that baffle even experts.

"The strongest opposition forces on the ground are vicious terrorist organizations that are constantly merging and blending with people who just want to get the yoke of an oppressive regime off their backs," said Obama.

"Being able to sort through what a representative government would look likeone that would give Sunnis inside of Syria a sense of their rightful place at the table, while preserving protections for Alawite and Druze and Christians after so much bloodshedis going to be tough."

He also noted that even if Iran and Russia may see Assad's shortcomings, it "doesnt necessarily mean that Assad recognizes his weaknesses."

According to the New Yorker, the US president warned against expecting a breakthrough anytime soon, but noted: "I think the conversations are more serious now than they might have been earlier."

Britain's Opposition Leader Front-Runner Jeremy Corbyn Says Don't Bomb ISIL 

Jeremy Corbyn would stop the bombing campaigns against ISIL he said tonight, preferring to "isolate" the terrorist group instead.

British aircraft are involved in bombing missions against ISIL in Iraq, and the Government suggested last month it would investigate whether to extend the remit into Syria.

Mr Corbyn, the front-runner in the Labour leadership contest, tonight said he was opposed to military intervention against the group.

In an interview with BBC 2's Newsnight, the Islington North MP also called for former Labour leader Tony Blair to be put on trial if it was ruled the UK-supported invasion of Iraq was a war crime.

Mr Corbyn said: "We should look very seriously, very urgently, at the money that ISIL have got, the arms ISIL have got and the export of oil that ISIL is making.

"I would want to isolate ISIL. I don't think going on a bombing campaign in Syria is going to bring about their defeat, I think it will make them stronger, so I'm not in favour of that.

"I'm not a supporter of military intervention, I'm a supporter of isolating ISIL and bringing about a coalition of the region against them."

Mr Corbyn was asked whether he believed Mr Blair should be tried for war crimes after sending British troops into Iraq in 2003.

The Islington North MP, who is also chairman of the Stop The War coalition, said he was waiting for the Chilcot report into the Iraq War to be published.

When pressed, he said: "If he's committed a war crime, yes. I think everybody who's committed a war crime should be. I think it was an illegal war, I'm confident about that. Indeed Kofi Annan confirmed it was an illegal war and therefore he has to explain to that. Is he going to be tried for it? I don't know. Could he be tried for it? Possibly."



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