The SNC has maintained it could not accept an invitation to dialogue unless Assad's removal was guaranteed. Russia will not allow for Assad’s departure to be a precondition of talks, and Kerry looks to have shifted the US position by saying Assad's exit should be the outcome of negotiations on a transitional government, rather than a starting point. Let’s be clear – before this conflict started in 2011, Assad oversaw a political system which was certainly authoritarian. The economy was stagnant, the state poorly handled overpopulation issues, and the agricultural sector was suffering from long periods of drought. When Bashar took over from his father, he granted more political breathing space to dissidents, and then backpedalled on reforms when popular movements quickly took shape. In combating the insurgency, Syrian forces killed many of their own citizens in the crossfire. But no matter what anybody thinks of Assad, it is not the place of Washington, London, or Doha to decide his political fate.
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Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.