NOAM CHOMSKY: Syria is a horrible catastrophe. The Assad regime is a moral disgrace. They’re carrying out horrendous acts, the Russians with them.That is the Russian story: That somehow there was this brief window of opportunity to get rid of Assad and the West blew it. Many writers discredited this incredible tale when the anti-imperialists first started peddling it in 2015. Linux Beach wrote about it in much greater detail than Chomsky's allusion [ It works best as an allusion ] in Is Assad Putin's puppet and did Russia offer him up in 2012?, 18 September 2015.
AMY GOODMAN: Why the Russians with them?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, pretty simple reason: Syria is their one ally in the whole region. Not a close ally, but they do have—their one Mediterranean base is in Syria. It’s the one country that’s more or less cooperated with them. And they don’t want to lose their one ally. It’s very ugly, but that’s what’s happening.
Meanwhile, there have been—it’s kind of like the North Korean case we were discussing. There have been possible opportunities to terminate the horrors. In 2012, there was an initiative from the Russians, which was not pursued, so we don’t know how serious it was, but it was a proposal to—for a negotiated settlement, in which Assad would be phased out, not immediately. You know, you can’t tell them, "We’re going to murder you. Please negotiate." That’s not going to work. But some system in which, in the course of negotiations, he would be removed, and some kind of settlement would be made. The West would not accept it, not just the United States. France, England, the United States simply refused to even consider it. At the time, they believed they could overthrow Assad, so they didn’t want to do this, so the war went on. Could it have worked? You never know for sure. But it could have been pursued.
Here is an excerpt from that post:
The view that Assad's opponents are instruments of Western imperialism is one that is promoted by the Assad regime and long popular among his "anti-imperialist" supporters, so it is not surprising that they believe that the three Western leaders the Russian message was directed to have the power to stop those fighting Assad. What is surprising is that they have been so quick to embrace a story that implies that Assad is not really the sovereign ruler of Syria that they claim. If the Russians have the power to determine what he does, he is their puppet. In order to believe the headline that the West 'ignored Russian offer in 2012 to have Syria's Assad step aside' you have to believe A) that the Russians were actually in a position to deliver on their promise, i.e., they actually had the power to make Assad step aside, and B) The offer was directed at those that had the power to speak for the Syrian opposition.Please read that post in full to understand just how shameful it is that Norm Chomsky sees in the vicious murder of so many children. another opportunity to blame the US by repeating the lying excuses of the killers.
Besides which, if the Russians had such control over Assad, they should have been asked to stay his horrific and one-sided violence. Short of Assad stepping aside, a halt to wanton attacks on civilian targets and the wholesale machine gunning of peaceful protesters, would have done wonders for the peace process. On the other hand, if the Russians were unwilling or unable to have Assad tamp down the violence before he stepped aside, why should the opposition believe that he will ever be made to step aside?
The main problem with this story is that its chauvinist view of the Syrian civil war as a proxy war is at odds with the reality on the ground. The Assad regime is supported by the Russians and Iranians, Hezbollah and Iraqi militias, but its main power base is in Syria. His opposition is also "home grown," grown out of the 40 years of brutality this regime has heaped upon its people. They get their weapons from defectors, or raiding army stores. They also have foreign backers, including Arab nationalists, but they march to their own various drummers. This peace offering was bogus in the first place because those involved were not the ones doing the direct fighting, so they weren't the ones that could make the peace.
There are other problems with the story. So far it rests on the word of one man. Churkin has refused to confirm it, and beyond the question of whether Putin had the power to determine if Assad would stay or go, there is the question of whether Churkin really had the power to speak for Putin. Sir John Jenkins – a former director of the Middle East department of the UK’s Foreign Office who was preparing to take up the post of ambassador to Saudi Arabia in the first half of 2012 – said "I would have replied I wanted to hear it from [President Vladimir] Putin too before I could take it seriously." In any case, when the UN sponsored peace talks later took place in Geneva in June, this secret offer to have Assad step down was nowhere to be found.
Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!