After five years fighting to preserve Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, Russia now appears inclined to dispose of its infamous client. Assad’s persistent brutality and corruption, and his inability to establish even the semblance of a functioning state, has grown to be a burden Moscow would prefer not to bear.
And then there’s the problem of Iran. Assad, members of his family, and his Alawite clansmen enjoy close, perhaps unbreakable, bonds to the regime in Tehran and to Iranian-backed militias in Syria. All of which undermines Moscow’s primary mission there: to rehabilitate the Assad regime as a symbol of stability capable of attracting hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign investment for reconstruction, which Russian firms would then be poised to receive.
As long as Assad’s relatives continue to function as a mafia and give free rein to Iranian troops using Syria as base of operations to threaten Israel and plan attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, those countries likely to foot the bill for Syrian reconstruction—the nations of Europe and the Gulf—are unlikely to come up with the cash.
This has not gone unnoticed by the United States.
“Assad has done nothing to help the Russians sell this regime,”James Jeffrey, the U.S. special envoy for the Coalition to Defeat ISIS, told reporters in a State Department briefing on Thursday. “You find Assad has nothing but thugs around him, and they don’t sell well either in the Arab world or in Europe. We have heard repeatedly from Russians we take as credible that they understand how bad Assad is”.
Read more: The Daily Beast