MOSCOW – Syrian President Bashar Assad is losing control and may be overthrown by an increasingly powerful opposition, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said in his country’s first official acknowledgment that the leader’s days may be numbered.
We have to look at the situation with open eyes, the state-run RIA Novosti news service reported Bogdanov as saying Thursday. The current trend is that the regime and government in Syria are increasingly losing control and territory. Unfortunately, you can’t rule out a victory by the opposition.
Russia has supported Assad throughout the 21-month Syrian conflict, maintaining weapons supplies and giving political support by blocking the West’s demands for action through the United Nations Security Council.
While Bogdanov didn’t indicate Russia would change its position at the U.N., he went further than previously in acknowledging that the civil conflict, now estimated by opposition groups to have killed more than 41,000 people, will probably end with Assad’s downfall.
Russia is tired of Bashar al-Assad, his failed promises to defeat terrorism,’ Alexei Malashenko, Middle East expert at the Moscow Carnegie Center, said by phone Thursday. He hasn’t succeeded. Russia, with a massive delay, under pressure from events on the ground, is giving him up. Now the likeliest outcome is a military one that could lead to Assad fleeing or being killed, and a sectarian bloodbath.
Russia’s chief of general staff, Valery Gerasimov, indicated Thursday that his country maintained its opposition to outside intervention in Syria.
Our firm position is that only the two sides of the Syrian conflict are capable of resolving it, without interference from some third party, particularly if that were to involve the use of force, Gerasimov said, after talks with Knud Bartels, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s military committee chairman, RIA Novosti reported.