‘Nobody else has come up with a plan’
Publishing Date: 24.10.15 00:50
By F. Michael Maloof
WASHINGTON – Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely has proposed a solution to the Syrian conflict to the top Middle East adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose military is pounding jihadist targets in Syria as Western leaders rush to meet in Vienna to deal with the growing refugee crisis in Europe.
Accompanied by his own Middle East adviser, Naji N. Najjar, Vallely held a quiet meeting at the Russian Embassy in Paris with Putin’s special representative for the Middle East and Syria, Mikhail L. Bogdanov.
Vallely proposed that the Russians meet with generals of the Free Syrian Army, which has sought the ouster of Assad.
Vallely, who has backed and helped secure TOW missiles for some of the army’s 40,000 to 50,000 fighters, told Bogdanov he believes the FSA could unite Syria.
“Nobody else has come up with a plan for Syria,” Vallely told G2Bulletin.
He explained that he originally was scheduled to meet with Russia’s ambassador to France but when ushered into the room, it was Bogdanov who greeted him.
Vallely’s meeting with Bogdanov comes as representatives of the United States, France, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are scheduled to meet in Vienna to discuss a political solution to the Syrian civil war, which is going into its fourth year. Millions of Syrians have fled the country, creating a refugee crisis in Europe.
Valley believes Bogdanov took the plan seriously.
“Putin knows he’s running the chessboard, and he knows that (President) Obama and the American government are just talk, they’re weak. So he knows that (Putin) can basically do whatever he wants to,” Vallely said.
“That’s why this plan is very optimistic in nature but certainly very doable if Putin wants to go that route.”
Vallely met the top Putin aide in his capacity as founder of the group Stand Up America. In the military, Vallely served in the Vietnam War and was deputy commanding general of Pacific Command.
Along with retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, Vallely co-authored the book “Endgame: The Blueprint for Victory in the War on Terror.”
‘Stop bombing them’
Vallely emphasized to Bogdanov that the Syrian people are not against the Russian people and their nation’s vital interests. But the general insisted that the first step is for the Russians to stop bombing the Free Syrian Army and innocent civilians.
A cease-fire, Vallely said, would help end the Syrian conflict through political compromise.
“If you want to get a positive reaction from the Syrian people, stop bombing them,” Vallely told Bogdanov.
Valley, who distinguishes the FSA from jihadists, told G2Bulletin that, until now, the Russians have put FSA forces in the same category as Islamic terrorists.
“The Free Syrian Army are not terrorists. They are not radical Islamists,” Vallely said. “Other than the FSA, there are no other elements there but the radical Islamist groups.”
To distinguish the FSA from radical Islamists, Vallely said, the Russians need to meet with the Syrian generals and ministers who defected from Assad.
“They want to meet with the Russians,” he said.
“Bogdanov liked the idea and would seriously consider meeting with representatives of the Free Syrian Army,” Vallely said.
He added that there are some 20 generals who have defected from Assad’s army, along with ministers in the government.
“These are actually high-level people who defected a number of years ago,” Vallely said.
He said that a number of the FSA leaders are living in Turkey and Jordan but could come together for such a meeting.
Vallely said he could bring together about 10 representatives to meet with the Russians.
“They are ready to meet with the Russians and talk about a new government, which they have to have,” Vallely said.
“Such a meeting could make Putin look like a real hero, help solve the refugee problem,” the general said. “He can unify Syria and can control a lot of the oil that comes across Syria and control Syria’s redevelopment.”
‘Assad has got to go’
Vallely said the FSA has been fighting the radical jihadists for about three years, even though some of them were “drained away” and joined ISIS and other radical Muslim groups such as the Jabhat al-Nusra Front.
Vallely mused to Bogdanov that the Russians could retire Assad to a “dacha,” a Russian country home, outside Moscow, “but Assad has got to go.”
Vallely said Bogdanov smiled at the suggestion.
“Under my plan, the Russians could really prosper from this, be heroes, bring a united Syria together to defeat ISIS and could help develop the country with high-tech manufacturing,” he said. “There also is a massive coastline in Syria for resorts. The Russians also want those port facilities, at Tartous and Latakia, on the Mediterranean. It was really a master plan that I laid out.
“No one has laid out a plan for the Russians. The Europeans haven’t done it. The U.S. government hasn’t done it. And this is specific stuff that can be done, is doable, but it’s in the hands of Putin,” said Vallely.
The plan Vallely presented Bogdanov includes the following provisions:
- Current Syrian government officials, including Assad, would resign and be replaced by an interim government, parliament and president representing all Syrians and religious groups.
- The new government would plan for future elections. All Syrians who have fled would be returned to the homeland through the Mediterranean ports of Latakia and Tartus, and Turkish passage zones.
- Western Syrian territory would be secured and declared the Syrian Resettlement Zone for all Syrian refugees now in Europe, Jordan and Turkey.
- The safe zone would be secured by established Syrian forces and Free Syrian Army fighters working with Russian, Turkish, Jordan and U.S. security forces.
- The following countries would form a coalition group to destroy ISIS in Eastern Syria and Northern Iraq: Russia, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, United States, Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Egypt.
- After ISIS is destroyed and removed from occupied areas, Syrians will be relocated to their villages and towns. The Syrian Redevelopment and Reconstruction Plan will be initiated to ensure Syria’s return to a prosperous and developed nation.
- The following countries would commit to being a member of the Syrian redevelopment plan: Russia, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, U.S., Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Iran.
- Refugees will be vetted to ensure ISIS members and sympathizers are removed from the groups and are isolated and secured in designated areas until rehabilitated.