09:39 GMT +323 July 2017
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    Syrian volunteers and their relatives wave the national flag and portraits of President Bashar Assad. File photo

    'Facing Political Reality': Washington Changes Mind About Assad, Middle East

    © AFP 2017/ LOUAI BESHARA
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    The White House's recent statements confirming that the US is no longer focused on ousting Syrian President Bashar Assad indicates a change in Washington's policy on Syria and the Middle East, according to Vladimir Lepekhin, head of the Moscow-based EurAsEC Institute think tank.

    In his think piece published by RIA Novosti, Vladimir Lepekhin, head of the Moscow-based EurAsEC Institute think tank, described the White House's recent statements that reveal the US is no longer focused on ousting Syrian President Bashar Assad as a change in the US' stance on Syria and the Middle East.

    On Thursday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during a visit to Ankara that the "long-term status" of Assad should be decided by the Syrian people.

    On Friday, White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said in a briefing that the United States should accept the political reality with respect to Assad and focus on eliminating the Daesh (ISIL/ISIS) terrorist group.

    Syrian pro-regime supporters dressed in military uniform stand in front of a mural of President Bashar al-Assad during a rally in Damascus. File photo
    © AFP 2017/ Louai Beshara
    Syrian pro-regime supporters dressed in military uniform stand in front of a mural of President Bashar al-Assad during a rally in Damascus. File photo

    Earlier, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said that "…when we're looking at this, it's about changing up priorities and our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out."

    "The timing and unambiguous meaning of these statements by politicians who are especially close to US President Donald Tramp shows that Washington has actually announced one of the most important positions of the US Administration's foreign policy strategy on Syria and the entire Middle East," Vladimir Lepekhin pointed out.

    According to him, all this proves that "Trump and his team are breaking outdated stereotypes in the key foreign policy direction for the United States."

    "This means that similar changes in the US State Department's policy can also be expected elsewhere, including on Russia, Ukraine and other countries of Eastern Europe and Eurasia," Lepekhin added.

    In this vein, it is safe to assume that "Russia and the United States are coming close to embarking on a concerted policy" related to Syria and the Middle East in general, without heeding the "useless" opinion of EU countries, he added.

    "I think that the next few days will see European politicians' and officials' about-face on their stance toward Assad. However, the Moscow-Washington-Damascus train does not need stops in Brussels or Berlin," Lepekhin concluded.

    In an interview with the Russian online newspaper Vzglyad, Yevgeny Satanovsky, head of the Moscow-based Middle East Institute think tank, warned against jumping to conclusions concerning Washington's latest statements on Assad.

    "This is just facing the political reality. To fight Daesh, Washington should coordinate efforts with Moscow rather than with Assad who cannot contain Daesh without Russia's help," Satanovsky said.

    According to him, it's too early to draw any conclusions from the statements by Haley and Tillerson because "actions speak louder than words" when it comes to the Syrian crisis.

    Earlier, former CIA officer Phil Giraldi told Sputnik that the White House's decision not to focus on toppling Assad is a significant change in policy that will allow the United States to concentrate on fighting Islamist terrorism.

    "Well, it's hardly a ringing endorsement but it is a shift in policy," Giraldi, a former CIA case officer and US Army intelligence officer, said on Friday.

    Assad's fate has been a stumbling block in the Syria peace talks for a long time, with the United States and its allies insisting he must step down, and Russia saying that the people of Syria are the ones who should decide Assad's future.

    Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov stressed on Wednesday that Russia will not discuss the future of Assad with the United States, as it is an issue solely for the Syrian people to resolve.

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    stance, statements, politicians, strategy, policy, Bashar Assad, Syria, United States
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