Syria: European diplomats criticise US policy of maximum pressure on Assad

Officials from European capitals fear US attempts at regime change in Damascus will only lead to regional instability

FILE - In this file photo released Monday Nov. 9, 2019 by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks in Damascus, Syria.  The global chemical weapons watchdog issued a report Wednesday 'April 8, 2020, blaming the Syrian air force for a series of chemical attacks using sarin and chlorine in late March 2017 and OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias said it is now up to the organization, “the United Nations Secretary-General, and the international community as a whole to take any further action they deem appropriate and necessary.”(SANA FILE via AP)

Diplomats from European nations have voiced misgivings over the US policy of “maximum pressure” on the regime of Bashar Al Assad in Syria, raising fears that attempts at regime change will fuel regional instability.

European officials have criticised the US policy, giving their opinions for a paper by the European Council of Foreign Relations on the future of Syria.

One diplomat said the US plan to remove Mr Al Assad and his regime showed “disregard for the Syrian people and wider regional stability”.

The European officials believe that the ultimate goal of the US in Syria is to deny Russia and Iran, the Syrian government’s chief allies, a long-term win.

On diplomat said that Washington was doing everything to “raise the cost and inflict maximum pain on [Moscow and Tehran]".

Using maximum pressure on Iran, as seen in the assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Suleimani and the withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, was the guiding principle of US strategy in the region.

The council has said that now Mr Al Assad has “effectively won the war” in Syria, he is unlikely to succumb to economic pressure from the US.

With the coronavirus threatening Syria, the think tank has said that Europe should look to help the country’s citizens survive their government and the disease.

“Families are eating less and less daily, if they can even find food to put on the table,” wrote Julien Barnes-Dacey, the paper’s author.

“Desperate parents are cutting short their children’s schooling to send them out to earn.

“The government continues to detain thousands of prisoners. And now, coronavirus looms large, threatening a medical and economic catastrophe.

Mr Barnes-Dacey said that while it is clear the Syrian government bears principal responsibility for the perilous situation, but pushing the government to collapse would not advance Europe’s interests.

“Deepening state failure in Syria is likely only to lead to further instability and entrench Assad’s warlord-like hold on the country as he defends the organs of state needed to maintain power,” he wrote.

“The end result will not be transition, but an exacerbation of the country’s Assad-directed implosion, leading to increased Syrian suffering, more refugees, and wider space for an extremist resurgence.”

The US has said that it does not require an overthrow of the Syrian regime.

Seeking to clarify the position, the US special representative for Syria, James Jeffrey, said in February that leaders in Washington “require a change in that government’s behaviour”.

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