Has U.S. Syria policy boosted Russia and left the “friendly” rebels in the dust?

The White House may never have had any good options in Syria, but the decision to essentially leave the civil war to simmer for two-and-a-half years has left the allies Washington could have had in the warzone bitterly disappointed, and Russia looking like the power to contend with in Middle East politics.

A panel discussion Wednesday on “CBS This Morning” between CBS News correspondents Clarissa Ward and Elizabeth Palmer, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, also highlighted one other unfortunate truth; none of the fervent and much-touted international diplomacy in the works at present will likely end the wanton killing.

Ward, who won an Emmy on Tuesday for her coverage of the Syria war, says the U.S. government has given mixed signals to the moderate opposition movement.

The White House waited until June of this year to announce it would start arming the Free Syrian Army rebels. But Ward says that flow of arms hasn’t begun, and the rebels who begged for the help for two years are now “highly skeptical” of their purported allies in the West. Russia, on the other hand, has been remarkably consistent in its approach to the Syrian conflict. President Bashar Assad counts the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin as his most valuable ally. Russia has defended the Assad regime at every turn from the threat of harsh punitive sanctions. It was Russia that ensured the new U.N. resolution aimed at ridding Syria of chemical weapons includes no automatic use-of-force clause should Damascus fail to live up to its end of the bargain.

But Rice, the former top U.S. diplomat and a long-time Russia scholar, says that in spite of the appearance that Putin is looking out for a close ally, he really has the interest of only one nation in mind. “Putin understands his interests very well,” says Rice. “He is interested in Russia, not in Assad, not in the Syria situation. And I give him credit; he’s done a fantastic job of making Russia the center of this story.” And while the U.S. and Russia may have been able to see eye-to-eye to pass the chemical weapons resolution, when it comes to the final outcome of Syria’s civil war, “our interests and Russia’s interests are not the same,” notes Rice. Meanwhile, as the U.N.-mandated inspectors embark on their mission to remove the threat of chemical weapons from Assad’s arsenal — with the Syrian government’s blessing — Palmer says it’s important to remember that “they haven’t given away any of the main tools they’re using to wage this war.” “Syria is giving away chemical weapons it was using minimally, if at all,” says Palmer. “The Assad regime is using conventional weapons against own people.” More than 110,000 people have been killed in Syria’s war, and the vast majority of them have died on the wrong end of bombs, guns and rockets, not chemical warheads.

There’s very little in the way of a serious diplomatic initiative right now — at least not an initiative that both sides would consider — to end that killing.

Source: CBS News

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