Syrian President Bashar Assad’s claim that some Western governments were holding secret talks with him behind America’s back should be viewed with skepticism but could well be true, former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman told Sputnik on Friday.
«I think this report deserves to be viewed with skepticism, given its source,” Freeman said.
On Thursday, Assad said in an interview that Western governments are already in secret negotiations with the Syrian leadership, and only publicly pretend to support the US demand to topple the Syrian government out of fear of upsetting Washington.
However, Freeman, who is also a former US assistant secretary of defense, noted that apart from US President Barack Obama, other Western governments acknowledged the reality of the survival and continuing credibility of Assad’s government.
«The Syrian government is a reality that has proven its durability in the face of relentless efforts by its overwhelmingly Islamist opposition, backed by the United States among other countries, to overthrow it,” he pointed out.
Freeman also suggested that the government of Australia, a major US ally, could be in the forefront of holding secret negotiations with Damascus.
«The Australians are admirable practitioners of realistic foreign policy. They understand the imperative of a peace process in Syria that includes all forces with claims to legitimacy however these may be disputed by others. That category inevitably includes the Assad government,” he stated.
Such secret negotiations would not be unprecedented or even unusual as there was a long history of US allies circumventing «the often doctrinaire and inflexible stances struck by Washington» in order to pursue realistic diplomacy, Freeman recalled.
«One thinks of the Norwegian role in promoting the Oslo accords behind the backs of America’s ever self-important and studiedly ineffectual peace processors, and the Israeli dealings with Iran over US opposition that ultimately gave way to the Iran-Contra scandal. So there may be something to this,” he said.
However, the United States still seemed to remain focused on punishing Syria with bombing and weapons supplies to insurgents with highly questionable pedigrees, Freeman cautioned.