Syrian President Assad to Outlast US Counterpart Obama: Leaked Document

Syrian President Assad to Outlast US Counterpart Obama: Leaked Document
Thu Jan 7, 2016 11:34:04

A leaked document published by the American news agency Associated Press (AP) has envisioned that Syrian President Bashar Assad would stay in power at least two months more than his US counterpart Barack Obama.

According to the document, obtained by AP on Wednesday, President Obama administration has a vision for the ‘departure’ of the Syrian president which would keep him in power until March 2017, two months later than the presidency of the President Obama.

“Even if the plan works, the US president won’t be around to see the plan through,” AP reported.

“An internal US timeline for a best-case Syrian political transition, sets a date of March 2017 for Assad to ‘relinquish’ his position as president and for his ‘inner circle’ to depart. That is two months after President Barack Obama leaves office and more than five years after Obama first called for Assad to leave.”

AP added, Syria, according to the would-be American strategy, would hold votes for a new president and parliament in August 2017 — some 19 months from now.

The State Department said Wednesday the timeline was prepared late last year as a guide for Secretary of State John Kerry and other US diplomats working on a political transition for Syria.

Spokesman John Kirby described the document as a “staff-level think piece” that is “preliminary and pre-decisional' and not 'an official position.”

He also said it is “not an accurate projection of plans by the international community to effect a political transition in Syria.”

However, many of the milestones mentioned in the document comport with the basics of the UN-endorsed plan. Other officials said they accurately reflected the administration’s thinking. One official, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private document, said the goal for Assad to leave in March 2017 might slip even further.

Countless hurdles lie ahead for implementation of this latest outline for ending five years of conflict that has killed more than a quarter-million people, created the worst European refugee crisis since World War II and allowed the Daesh (ISIL) group to carve out a would-be caliphate across parts of Iraq and Syria.

Assad has steadfastly refused to step down while his nation’s terrorist threat, as he sees it, persists. The timeline offers no explanation for exactly how Assad would leave or what his post-presidential future might hold.

Russia and Iran insist that the future leadership is a decision for the Syrian people. Russia and Iran may object to the US timeline’s call for Assad to leave six months before elections would be held, AP added.

It noted that in recent months, Washington and its allies in European capitals have ‘retreated’ from demands that Assad leave power immediately as the Daesh gained territory in the region.

According to the leaked document, Syria’s new political process starts next month. An 18-month transition period would be initiated, consistent with the plan endorsed by the UN Security Council last month. Government-opposition peace talks are to begin in Geneva on Jan. 25.

The US timeline envisions the Security Council signing off on a framework for negotiations between Assad’s representatives and the opposition, leading to the formation of a security committee in April. That would be accompanied by an amnesty for some government and military members, and moderate opposition leaders and fighters. The transitional governing body would then be created.

In May, the Syrian parliament would dissolve, according to the timeline. The Security Council would recognize the new transitional authority and lay out the transition's next steps. These include major political reforms, the nomination of an interim legislature and an international donors' conference to fund Syria's transition and reconstruction.

The next six months, through November 2016 — when Obama’s successor is elected — would be devoted to the sides drafting a new constitution. The Syrian people would get a chance to vote on that document in a popular referendum in January 2017, according to the timeline.

Only then would the process lead to the end of Assad's rule of Syria.

In March 2017, the timeline reads: “Assad relinquishes presidency; inner circle departs.”

Syria’s new government would assume full powers from the transitional body after the parliamentary and presidential elections in August, AP concluded.

S/SH

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