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    Syrian volunteers and their relatives wave the national flag and portraits of President Bashar al-Assad as they celebrate at the end of a paramilitary training conducted by the Syrian army in al-Qtaifeh, 50 kms north of the capital Damascus on February 22, 2016

    Forget Assad! This is Washington's New Focus in the Middle East

    © AFP 2019 / LOUAI BESHARA
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    The US leadership seems to have finally made a U-turn on its Syrian strategy. John Kerry's visit to Moscow and the Pentagon's increased activity on the ground in Iraq indicate that Washington is not greatly concerned with the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but has instead focused on defeating Daesh.

    For nearly five years since street protests in Syria transformed into a bloody foreign-sponsored insurgency the Obama administration insisted that al-Assad was the problem and had to step down. 

    "There was a time when what we talked about within the US was the Assad regime. We are not talking about the Assad regime anymore. That is, I don't want to say inconsequential, but it is secondary," former CIA officer Jack Rice told RT.

    US soldiers monitor as they train Iraq's 72nd Brigade in a live-fire exercise in Basmaya base, southeast of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on January 27, 2016
    © AFP 2019 / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE
    US soldiers monitor as they train Iraq's 72nd Brigade in a live-fire exercise in Basmaya base, southeast of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on January 27, 2016

    Washington is currently focusing its foreign policy efforts in the region on tackling the most brutal, resilient and organized terrorist group the worldhas seen. Last week, the Pentagon said that US Marines will join approximately 3,600 US soldiers already deployed to Iraq to help local forces deal with Daesh.

    "At the end of the day, what we have found is that it's the focus now, and the willingness of the US to step up alongside the Europeans, to some degree, but more importantly alongside the Iraqis and the Kurds – is something the US seems to be willing to do now, and they are willing to do it with some gusto," Rice observed.

    The UN-sponsored peace process, endorsed by Russia and the US, offers indirect proof of Washington's shifting agenda. The resolution that paved the way for the Syrian ceasefire and the peace talks made no mention of al-Assad's fate.

    The parties taking part in the Geneva negotiations will also refrain from mentioning al-Assad in the declaration, according to the draft document that Sputnik saw. The text, prepared by UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and submitted to the negotiating sides for approval, neither calls on the Syrian president to resign, nor prevents him from taking part in the upcoming elections.

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    Tags:
    Syrian conflict, Daesh, Bashar al-Assad, Syria, Iraq, United States
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