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
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

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake 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.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that was eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports on how one band is bringing Yiddish tango to Los Angeles.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid