News / Middle East

Syrian Dismissal Seen as 'Jockeying' Ahead of Peace Talks

Former Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil
Former Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil
TEXT SIZE - +
— The dismissal of Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister, Qadri Jamil on Tuesday appears to be part of complex maneuvering ahead of the “Geneva 2” peace talks the U.S. and Russia are proposing for next month, say analysts and rebel leaders.
 
Jamil's dismissal was announced on Syrian state television just days after he met with a senior U.S. envoy in Geneva.  It prompted immediate speculation of serious divisions within the Syrian government over the peace talks being pressed by Washington and Moscow on Bashar al-Assad and rebels seeking to oust him.
 
According to state television, Jamil, a Moscow-educated economist, was dismissed because he was absent from work “without prior permission and did not follow up on his duties ... Additionally, he undertook activities outside the nation without coordinating with the government.”
 
Those activities, U.S. officials confirmed, included a meeting in Switzerland last Saturday with President Obama’s ambassador to Syria Robert S. Ford, who has been at the forefront of Western efforts to cajole the warring sides to attend stalled peace talks in Geneva scheduled for November 23-24.
 
The announcement of the sacking came shortly after Jamil told Russian media he had met with Ford. 
 
A State Department spokeswoman played down the significance of the meeting between Ambassador Ford and Jamil, saying Obama’s envoy is meeting with “a long list” of people connected to the Syrian government to discuss Geneva 2.  The Reuters news agency quoted a "Middle East official" as saying that Jamil came up with “unworkable proposals,” which included having the “U.S. include him with the opposition in the Geneva talks.”
 
Pre-talks jockeying by Assad and rebels
 
The private intelligence outfit Stratfor alerted commercial clients that Jamil’s dismissal “might indicate signs of fracturing and disunity within the regime.”
 
But Syria expert Joshua Landis, the director of the Center of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oklahoma, argues the firing is linked to pre-talks jockeying by the government and rebels. He argues the dismissal may well be a preemptive move by Assad to ensure Washington had no thoughts of earmarking the 61-year-old economist as a possible successor.
 
“Assad is not going to allow a foreign government to name his successor or a transitional head,” says Landis. “He is determined to remain President of Syria and was probably fearful that the West is looking for a figurehead who can replace him in some transitional government.”
 
Landis, the editor of the influential “Syria Comment” blog, compares Jamil’s sacking to the fate of a prominent Alawi politician Abdel-Aziz al-Khair, who held discussions in September 2012 with foreign officials about political options to end the war. “Al-Khair traveled to Russia and China, where he seemed to be a possible candidate for a transitional government. When he returned to Syria, he was promptly arrested, not to be heard from again,” says Landis.
 
No signs of split in Assad regime
 
Jamil is a member of the so-called patriotic opposition -- critics and political parties opposed to Assad who have refused to join the armed uprising. After parliamentary elections in 2012 -- polls that Jamil denounced as “manipulated” -- he agreed along with another Assad opponent tolerated by the regime to enter the Syrian government, taking the economic affairs portfolio. Assad officials trumpeted his acceptance of the post as evidence of their willingness to reform. 
 
David Schenker a fellow at The Washington Institute, a U.S.-based public policy think tank and formerly the Pentagon's top policy official on the Arab countries of the Levant, says, because “Qadri wasn’t a member of the ruling Ba'ath party and not a regime insider” it is hard to reach the conclusion that his firing is a sign of a significant split within the Assad government.
 
The Obama administration and Russia are having a difficult time reviving Syrian peace talks. The Assad government says it won’t negotiate with those engaged in fighting and the main Western and Gulf-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, refuses to attend the Geneva 2 process while Assad remains President. The SNC says it only prepared to talk about a political transition when Assad departs power.
 
Rebels warn political opposition against compromise
 
Just a few days ago a recently formed hardline Islamist coalition of rebel groups – including some of the biggest armed brigades – warned the SNC not to backtrack, saying it would consider any who engaged in negotiations with the Assad regime as traitors liable to be hauled before Islamic sharia courts for punishment.
 
SNC leaders spy a more sinister motive behind Jamil’s dismissal, arguing it is a fake sacking. They maintain it is part of a cynical Assad gambit to boost Jamil’s credentials as an opponent of the regime thereby tricking the U.S. to accept him as a credible participant in the talks.
 
“Jamil is an integral part of the structure of the regime,” says the official spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, Louay Safi. He claims the Assad regime is trying to engineer a situation where in the absence of the rebels at any Geneva talks “the government can in effect negotiate with itself. “
 
In an interview with Russian television Tuesday, Jamil argued the “internal opposition” had every right to be a participant in peace talks and that his readiness to negotiate “shows that Geneva 2 is going forward.” He said “impossible conditions” for talks shouldn’t be imposed – a reference to his position that rebels shouldn’t be demanding Assad steps down before they negotiate.
 
Speaking to the Lebanese television station, Al Mayadeen, Jamil cautioned, “the idea of Assad stepping down is out of the question.”

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid