It seems to me that it is absolutely imperative that we bring Bashar al-Assad to the negotiating table. These negotiations must be conducted at the highest levels possible on all sides. It only makes sense to at the very least confront al-Assad since he’s the one that is conducting the war. It serves a multirole purpose since from the perspective of the world we seem to be in a cycle of overthrowing strongmen in the Middle East beginning with Saddam Hussein. To allay any fears that this is simply another case of America having its way in the region we must make a full-throated and senior appeal to the Assad administration so as to have legitimacy on our side. Assad seems to be stuck in a bubble that is continually feeding him information that he quite frankly wants to hear; be it true or not. This has only helped to harden his position and has prevented any sort of tangible progress toward an agreed settlement of the civil war. It’s also worth noting that al-Assad comes from a dynasty that had ruled Syria since the 1970’s. This means that his “cult of personality” has been entrenched in Syrian society for at least that long. This makes an overthrow by the Syrian rebels that much more difficult to render. Unlike Saddam, Mubarak, Qaddafi, or even the Taliban al-Assad inherited his power from his dad Hafez. This makes it all the more difficult to convince the people within his immediate vicinity that he should “step down”. After all as far as al-Assad is concerned he’s the one that is the rightful ruler of Syria, and so it should be us not him who kowtow’s to demands to stop the bloodshed, and prevent this wholesale slaughter from happening anymore. Enter Russia. It’s not so much that they are sympathetic to his cause so much as the Russian federation is sympathetic to al-Assad’s crown authority and what diluting that would mean for not only Syria, not only Russia, but the rest of the world as well. If the United States and its allies are allowed to overthrow a sovereign ruler without Just War casus belli ante, this could set a whole new precedent for how future engagement is settled throughout the world. Or so the thinking goes. If we are to make any progress in talks we must take into consideration these factors at the least, particularly when dealing with Russia; and especially when dealing with the Assad regime.