It is a sign of how truly desperate the administration that it seems be expecting Russia to solve the Syria crisis. This approach is being endorsed even by those, like the veteran diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, who should know better on the grounds that there is no other real alternative.
If so, then there is no way out of this morass, period. Because Russia has no interest or desire to help save Syria or America’s allies in the region from the consequences of a catastrophic civil war. Russia is happy to stand on the sidelines and benefit from arms sales to the embattled Assad regime–possibly even the dispatch of sophisticated air-defense systems (although Moscow is unscrupulous enough to pocket Syria’s payments without actually delivering the missiles in question).
Any expectation that Vladimir Putin will come to the rescue–even to cooperate in some kind of far-fetched international scheme to disarm the Assad regime, as suggested by Khalilzad–will be doomed to disappoint. The only outside intervention that is likely to end the killing is the kind that helps the rebels to prevail faster–although admittedly the growing ascendance of radicals in the ranks of the anti-Assad (at least partially as a result of Western lack of support for the moderates) forces makes the prospect of a rebel victory a mixed blessing.
We are, in short, in quite a pickle because of the Obama administration’s Iraq Syndrome, which has precluded effective (and low-cost) Western intervention in Syria. That has heightened the influence of the Qataris, among others, who have been arming Muslim extremists, even while Hezbollah and Iran increase their support for the embattled regime in Damascus. The administration may not have any attractive options at this point, but it needs to pick one of them anyway, instead of imagining some magical outside intervention from Moscow will come to the rescue.