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Time on Assad’s side in Syria peace talks: Analyst

Syrian soldiers patrol a street in the historical city of Palmyra, in central Syria, March 29, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Press TV has conducted an interview with Jim W. Dean, a political analyst, to discuss the effects of the Syrian army’s recent gains — including the retaking of the city of Palmyra from Daesh —on its position in peace talks.

The following is a rough transcription of the interview.

Press TV: Looking at the gains that Syrian army has made, specifically when we look at Palmyra, it is going to give leverage when the talks start on April 11, now isn’t it?

Dean: It certainly is and I kind of predicted this stupid strategy by the Saudi opposition groups; they thought they were going to stall the peace talks, that if they couldn’t get Assad to agree to step down, that they were going like hold up, there won’t be any peace talks. But, I had been on some shows during that time and I said that is just going to give the Russians and the Syrians more time to pursue their campaign, which is being successful; and that is exactly what’s happened.

And then, when they had the ceasefire, which is also very great that that happened because a lot of the opposition groups… it was a chance for them to step down, sign the agreement, stop getting bombed, they can get food in themselves and that took them out of the picture in terms of combatants and allowed the Syrians and the Russians to then refocus on ISIS and al-Nusra and some of the more aggressive opposition groups.

So, as I had said before, time is on Assad’s hands now. If they want to drag things out at the talks for another months or two, he will capture Dayr al-Zawr, they’ll be eventually able to take care of Raqqah, and that eliminates the Saudis being able to command with any threat of any kind of an invasion or reinforcement in strength because they would have to have either of those two bases still in effect and I think within a couple of months or even by the summertime those may have been reduced…

Press TV: You’re basically saying that, considering Assad does has the upper hand, we are going to see the foreign-backed groups that are part of the negotiations trying to cut their losses and come up with some sort of a negotiated agreement before they lose more ground.

Dean: And If the Saudi group says, ‘We are not going to participate, we are going to leave the talks,’ they will just say ‘Goodbye, we will go ahead and make peace and make agreements with the ones that are willing to actually work on it.’ So, I think he is holding the cards and this why you also see Kerry really trying to put pressure on Russia to get Assad to step down and that is the big key there. As long as Russia stands behind Assad saying, ‘We are going to let the Syrian people to decide what Assad’s fate is going to be politically,’ I think they’ve got a good position.

And I think the Americans now think the only way that they are going to get Assad out of there is somehow offer the Russians something and I cannot imagine what that would be; but we never know, we didn’t hear anything about what is going to happen to Turkey if they don’t stop supplying the terrorists, which they are continuing to do. So, that has been kept under wraps. But, so far, things are good and the Syrian people are getting some respite from the war and we hope that continues.


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