"Make no mistake about it: the removal of Assad's government in Damascus is really what this is all about," Draitser noted. "The emergence of the Islamic State in the last two years has provided a convenient pretext for the United States to be able to continue to pursue the same agenda."
Citing retired former Defense Intelligence Agency director Michael Flynn's recent interview for Al Jazeera, where the official admitted that the US did not interfere with the rise of Jihadist groups in Syria, despite knowledge of their existence dating back to at least August 2012, Draitser noted that "we [now] have documented evidence from the Defense Intelligence Agency –the memo which is now public information, that the United States knew about the rise of the Islamic State all the way back to 2012, and that they were willing to allow this extremist Salafist group to develop for the purposes of capitalizing on it in Syria. That's what the United States has known from the beginning, and that continues to be the strategy."
Turkey and the Buffer Zone
Draitser has absolutely no faith in the buffer zone, telling Sputnik that "it will work [only] in the sense that it will prolong the war, preventing the Syrian Arab Army and their Hezbollah allies from being able to mop up any remaining opposition," while providing "continuing support for the so-called [moderate] rebels –the non-Islamic State extremists that the Saudis, the US and others have been financing and supporting."
As to whether the buffer zone will assist Assad's enemies in deposing the Syrian government, Draitser does not believe that this will be likely either, noting that Turkey has in fact "now waded into open conflict, and are now reaping the rewards of that –that is to say the terror attacks in Istanbul and other parts of Turkey, which is the quite predictable blowback of Turkey's direct involvement in this conflict."
Draitser recalled that "Turkey has been involved in this conflict from the very beginning…providing safe havens to the extremists, and funneling arms across the border, working with the Syrian Muslim brotherhood, as the New York Times reported, and with others, but now that they're openly involved in a shooting war inside Syria, they will now face the consequences, as we've seen in the headlines in recent days."
No Diplomatic Solution Without Assad
Draitser believes that the Syrian government will now need to continue "to fight until a political solution can be reached," noting that hope in this regard can be found in Moscow. The expert argues that Russia's "diplomatic drive with the Saudis, with Syria and Iran, trying to unite all of these elements and using the Islamic State as the galvanizing force –this is really for the purposes of getting some kind of a lasting solution for Syria."
Noting that it will be impossible for the Syrian government to be deposed by military means alone, Draitser believes that "what the Saudis and their allies in Washington would like to do is to force Russia into a diplomatic corner so that they abandon Assad and move toward some form of 'transitional government' or 'transitional stage'." The expert does not believe this to be a likely outcome, noting that it would serve as a "tremendous diplomatic defeat for Moscow."
Ultimately, Draitser believes that "the most likely scenario is that this conflict will continue, with the Saudis continuing to play their diplomatic double game, while Moscow continues to back Damascus and their allies in Tehran, until such time that the Saudis are willing to abandon the fanciful notion that Assad is not going to be part of a diplomatic and political solution…Once that happens, there could be an end to this war."
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.