ASSESSMENTS

To Improve Syria’s Image Abroad, Russia Gently Twists al Assad’s Arm

MIN READOct 21, 2021 | 20:53 GMT

Russian and Syrian flags wave above a damaged building in Syria's southern city of Daraa on Sept. 12, 2021.

Russian and Syrian flags wave above a damaged building in Syria's southern city of Daraa on Sept. 12, 2021.

(LOUAI BESHARA/AFP via Getty Images)

In Syria, Russia is signaling a new willingness to bring the war-torn out from international isolation by leveraging its close relationship with President Bashar al Assad’s regime. But doing so will likely require getting more deeply involved in manipulating and managing Syrian politics, putting Moscow's reputational and strategic gains from the civil war at risk. Western diplomats have accredited Russia for getting al Assad’s regime to agree to its first-ever face-to-face meeting with rebel negotiators to start drafting constitutional reforms. The U.N.-led drafting sessions, which formally began on Oct. 18, also ended nine-month hiatus of peace talks between the rival factions in Syria’s civil war. By helping convince Syria to take the U.N.-led constitutional reform process more seriously, Moscow is signaling it will be more assertive in pushing Damascus to take the steps needed to finally restore some of the trade links and economic activity that would rebuild Syria, improve...

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