With Western-backed rebels having brought Syria into a state of virtual civil war, the situation could soon dramatically change, as nominally unrelated talks between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were reportedly seeking a sort of grand bargain, ensuring Assad’s continued rule as part of a broad deal on how Russia, the US and the EU will dictate the situation across the region. The talks continue, but a deal is apparently not imminent after the St. Petersburg talks ended in failure.
The deal was apparently being fueled in part by European fears that the Syrian civil war could cut fuel supplies to the continent, at a time when the Iran sanctions are already driving prices in Europe through the roof. The decision to “choose stability” means that instead of imposing regime change on Syria, the US et al will be imposing Assad on them, whether they want him or not.
For Russia, the deal would mean Western promises that they can keep a naval base in Tartus, and that the Syrian regime would remain pro-Russian going forward, though it only “guarantees” Assad’s continued rule for the first two years.
But the bargain doesn’t stop at the Syrian border, and would mean some “concessions” against Iran on Russia’s part, and giving Saudi Arabia direct influence in Iraq and Lebanon, with an eye toward preventing prolonged Shi’ite rule in either country.
Kofi Annan is said to be working on a new “peace plan” for Syria after the trainwreck that the last one ended up being. No details on the contents, but it will surely have to reflect whatever agreement is reached in Geneva this weekend. Russia and the US are both downplaying the chance of finalizing it by then, however, saying that they are only continuing “out of respect” for Annan.