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INTERNATIONAL > Al-Assad in his last six months, US estimates

WASHINGTON - Hürriyet Daily News

The US provides another ‘expiry date’ for Syria’s government, insisting to Turkish officials that Bashar al-Assad will fall in six months

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Burns met with Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Sinirlioğlu. AP photo

Burns met with Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Sinirlioğlu. AP photo

Tolga Tanış Tolga Tanış tolga@hurriyet.com.tr

Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will not last in power for more than six months at most, senior U.S. figures predicted during a recent meeting with Turkey’s senior diplomat in Washington, Turkish officials have said.

According to U.S. assessments, 80 percent of the country is under the control of militants, while almost 40 percent of Damascus has fallen into rebel hands. As such, al-Assad has resorted to missiles because he has been unable to redeploy his overstretched forces, U.S. officials told Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu during a recent meeting involving the State and Defense Departments that also touched on Iran, Iraq and the Middle East peace process.

For its part, the Turkish side asked the Barack Obama administration to be more active now that the presidential elections are complete, while conveying its concerns over the 22-month-long crisis. Turkey also criticized the timing of Washington’s decision to declare the Jabhat al-Nusra front, an Islamist group at the forefront of the fight against the Syrian government, as a terrorist organization.

In December 2012, Washington blacklisted the Jabhat al-Nusra group, saying it was linked to al-Qaeda; U.S. officials fear that groups such as the front could hijack the uprising. Turkish officials, however, said it was more important to focus on the “chaos” that al-Assad has created instead of groups such as al-Nusra.

Sinirlioğlu and his accompanying delegation also discussed energy issues in northern Iraq. Washington fears Turkish energy companies’ activities in Kurdish northern Iraq could push Baghdad closer toward Tehran and threaten Iraq’s unity.

“Turks are standing firm on this issue,” a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity said. Another U.S. official said Sinirlioğlu tried to convince U.S. Special Envoy for Energy Affairs Carlos Pascual over the matter.

But U.S. officials conveyed their concerns to the Turkish delegation, saying energy deals that bypass the central government in Baghdad were very dangerous while adding that they had informed U.S. energy firms active in northern Iraq not to circumvent Baghdad. Turkish officials, meanwhile, said there was a common will to work on the issue.

Sinirlioğlu also discussed upcoming elections in Israel, Greek Cyprus and Armenia and their effects on the region while noting U.S. support for Turkey’s efforts to combat terrorism and plans on stopping terrorism financing.

In addition to Pascual, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasian Affairs Phil Gordon and Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs Beth Jones attended the meeting at the State Department. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also stopped in to greet Sinirlioğlu during the meeting, according to State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland.

January/17/2013

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READER COMMENTS

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joe Maddin

1/23/2013 12:28:35 AM

I wonder if the USA did not give these fantasy estimates to the Turkish FM to justify that the USA will not intervene. I have never read such ridiculous estimates. Damascus is totally under the government control, and the areas under rebels control are pounded on daily basis..

Mike Clark

1/17/2013 10:40:11 PM

The people in Syria support Assad. The militants were so dumb to attack Damascus. It looks to me that Assad is winning the war against Turkey, the wahabi, al-quaeda, and the islamic brotherhood. I can't beleive NATO is supporting terror groups. I understand why quatar and other wahabi groups are, they always had been supporting islamist terror groups for decades.

mara mcglothin

1/17/2013 7:43:58 PM

ILKER Regardless of how you feel about America, most of the American public feel exactly what you stated about Turkey "voice for the voiceless it seeks justice and freedom for those who want freedom" , -. You have to remember that no good deed goes unpunished. That is how the USA got labeled imperialist war mongering evil. I would hope that others could learn from our mistakes. The Assads see the country as their property, like a kings. Syrian people need to handle it.

ilker avni

1/17/2013 5:34:35 PM

@Mara I have to disagree with your comment that we should butt out of Syria because Assads family own Syria.Try saying that to the Syrians.Turkey is the voice for the voiceless it seeks justice and freedom for those who want freedom , Syrians are paying with their lives because they want freedom from the dictator whose family have been in power for fourty years.Enough is Enough.!

Hakan Salci

1/17/2013 4:09:00 PM

This piece shows exactly the mindset of the AK government and the danger it poses to the secular establishment in Turkey if not the entire world. Regardless of the very serious threat jihadist groups represent they are openly backing such groups as Jabhay -Al-Nusra, no matter what the cost. Hell bent on ousting the Syrian President they are willing to do anything so long as they achieve their goal. The World should take notice of this stance for soon this will turn around and bite them back bad.

mara mcglothin

1/17/2013 3:12:33 PM

Why does anyone care about these predictions by anyone. Assad will never voluntarily step down because he believes Syria belongs to his family. We all need to butt out and let Syria handle their own business. BLUE Was it the West that took out Ghaddafi? because those people I saw on tv dragging him through the streets surely looked like locals to me?

Sam Steel

1/17/2013 2:57:41 PM

These announcements are becoming more comical every time they are made. The expiry date seems to either stay exactly the same or extend every time. When Obama steps down in 4 years time, Assad will still be president of Syria, not because he's a fabulous president but because the alternatives are unthinkable. The syrian people will never accept an Islamist government

Blue Dotterel

1/17/2013 11:00:26 AM

They were saying the same thing over a year ago. The "rebels" "control" a lot of desert, and not much else. Assad may agree to step down for an interim deal, but also may not. Assad will likely only go if Western intelligence succeeds in assassinating him. The Western backed mercenaries are losing favor because they are clearly a worse option to govern Syria than Assad.
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