It was the eighth such Russian veto since war broke out in 2011, and yet another sign Russia will not easily relinquish its new perch on the Mediterranean or its alliance with Syria’s brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad. Similarly, a short Moscow visit by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson failed to persuade Vladimir Putin that Assad has become a liability rather than an asset.
Rumors have been swirling in Washington about a new strategy to hive Russia off from Assad, isolate Iran, unite to defeat ISIS and move to a transitional government in Damascus. If that indeed is the Trump administration’s nascent Syria strategy, it is at an impasse.
Russia and the United States are solidly squared off at opposing points on the strategic map. Both have outlined their positions: Assad should go; Assad should stay. And while the Security Council vote is little more than a signal of Russia’s continued position — after all, UN Security Council resolutions are too often worth less than the paper they’re written on — it is nonetheless a clear signal.
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