The US and its allies in the Arab world offer Russia a “great deal”: to exchange Syrian President Assad for cooperation with wealthy Gulf countries. Should Moscow seriously consider such a proposal? The pro-Western Syrian opposition (the Supreme Negotiating Committee, SNC) has recently presented a new plan to resolve the conflict that lasts for more than five years already. According to the plan, President Bashar Assad is to leave in accordance with the results of Geneva-1 conference that took place in 2012.
According to the SNC, which enjoys the support of the United States and Saudi Arabia, Assad is supposed to take part in new negotiations, as a result of which he will leave office and undertake not to take part in the political life of the state (particularly in the transitional government, and subsequent elections). As we can see, the “irreconcilable” have made their concessions: until recently, they have flatly refused to sit down at the table with Assad. Yet, their goal remains the same: to strike the sitting president out of Syria’s future. Moscow still finds this plan unacceptable. The Kremlin insists that Syrian President Assad must participate in all the processes that take place in the Syrian political life. One should take a close look at the circumstances, against the backdrop of which the Supreme Negotiating Committee proposed the above-mentioned plan.
First of all, Russia and two oil monarchies of the Gulf – Bahrein and Qatar – signed an agreement on military cooperation. Bahrain demonstrates an intention to develop cooperation with Russia in a number of other areas, while President Putin has called the country “a new support” of Russia in the Middle East.
Secondly, a little earlier in China, Russia and Saudi Arabia came to the long-awaited agreement on cooperation in matters of oil production and, ultimately, oil price regulation.
Roughly speaking, these two facts suggest that Saudi Arabia and other members of the Cooperation Council of Arab States of the Gulf offer Moscow to stop supporting Assad in exchange for lucrative contracts, investments and joint increase in oil prices. These are “carrots,” so to speak.