US accepts Assad staying in Syria — but will not give aid

James Jeffrey, the US special representative in Syria. (REUTERS)
Updated 18 December 2018
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US accepts Assad staying in Syria — but will not give aid

  • James Jeffrey said that Assad needed to compromise as he had not yet won the brutal seven-year civil war
  • Trump’s administration has acknowledged, if rarely so explicitly, that Assad is likely to stay

WASHINGTON: The US said Monday it was no longer seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad but renewed warnings it would not fund reconstruction unless the regime is “fundamentally different.”

James Jeffrey, the US special representative in Syria, said that Assad needed to compromise as he had not yet won the brutal seven-year civil war, estimating that some 100,000 armed opposition fighters remained in Syria.

“We want to see a regime that is fundamentally different. It’s not regime change —  we’re not trying to get rid of Assad,” Jeffrey said at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

Estimating that Syria would need $300-400 billion to rebuild, Jeffrey warned that Western powers and international financial institutions would not commit funds without a change of course.

“There is a strong readiness on the part of Western nations not to ante up money for that disaster unless we have some kind of idea that the government is ready to compromise and thus not create yet another horror in the years ahead,” he said.

Former President Barack Obama had called for Assad to go, although he doubted the wisdom of a robust US intervention in the complex Syrian war. and kept a narrow military goal of defeating the Daesh extremist group.

President Donald Trump’s administration has acknowledged, if rarely so explicitly, that Assad is likely to stay.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned in October that the US would not provide “one single dollar” for Syria’s reconstruction if Iran stays.

Jeffrey also called for the ouster of Iranian forces, whose presence is strongly opposed by neighboring Israel, although he said the US accepted that Tehran would maintain some diplomatic role in the country.

Jeffrey also said that the US wanted a Syria that does not wage chemical weapons attacks or torture its own citizens.

He acknowledged, however, that the US may not find an ally anytime soon in Syria, saying: “It doesn’t have to be a regime that we Americans would embrace as, say, qualifying to join the European Union if the European Union would take Middle Eastern countries.”


Israeli leader heads to Chad to restore relations

Updated 36 min 10 sec ago
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Israeli leader heads to Chad to restore relations

  • Chad broke off relations with Israel in 1972
  • Chad plays a key role in combatting militant groups in the Sahara

JERUSALEM: Israel’s prime minister has departed for the central African nation of Chad to officially restore relations.
Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday hailed what he called a “historic and important breakthrough” with the Muslim-majority country that borders Libya and Sudan. Chad’s President Idriss Deby visited Jerusalem in November.
Netanyahu has made great efforts to extend Israeli diplomacy to Africa and has visited the continent several times in recent years. It’s part of an overall policy of seeking allies among developing countries that have historically sided with the Palestinians at the UN and other international forums. Netanyahu says this outreach “causes outrage in Iran and among the Palestinians.”
Chad broke off relations with Israel in 1972. It plays a key role in combatting militant groups in the Sahara.