The US State Department has prepared an internal “timeline” for regime change in Syria, which envisions Syrian President Bashar Assad staying in power through the end of the Obama Administration, and envisions him and his “inner circle” being removed from office around March of 2017.
The ouster of Assad would then lead to elections for a new parliament and president in August of 2017, with the underlying assumption that neither Assad nor his key allies would be permitted to participate in those elections.
Though officials are trying to downplay the leak of this plan, saying it is “preliminary,” it appears to be a US effort to come up with a plan that mirrors the basic outline of the UN Security Council-endorsed framework for peace in Syria.
Russia was the first to come forward with a plan, and the US version doesn’t appear wildly different, except for the key question of Assad’s fate. Russia’s version would’ve allowed Assad, and indeed anyone in Syria, to run for office in the free elections.
This is the crux of the dispute on Syria between the US and Russia, and has been for years, with Russia arguing that the Syrians should decide who can run for office, and the US insisting that only certain Syrians be permitted to campaign. This ultimately makes the competing plans just a continuation of the age-old dispute.