Putin said that Russia could offer asylum to the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. See the article of Business Inside below. It is a strange thing that Putin said that, given that everybody knows that Russia could do it. Therefore the question is why did he say it?
Putin either wanted to threat Assad, or to threat the Iranians who count on Assad as one of their strongest allies in the Middle East. The other possibility is that he wanted to send a message to the Turks or the Arabs of the Persian Gulf, and tell them that under certain conditions he would accept to let Assad go. Remember that according to Bloomberg the United States tilted towards Iran in the Iranian-Saudi crisis of January 2016.
The Turks and the Arabs would accept Russia in Syria if Putin was to let Assad go. The reason is that both the Turks and the Arabs know that the Russians would not be very happy to see the Iranians sending their oil and gas to the Mediterranean Sea through Syria, because that would also hurt Russian sales to Europe. If the Russians were to withdraw their support to Assad it would be easy for the Turks and the Arabs to overturn him. The Iranians could not stop them. That means that the Iranians and Assad have to tolerate Putin’s temperament.
I have said again that the Russians are very reluctant to “sell” the Iranians in Syria, because the Iranians could retaliate by sending their oil and gas to Europe through Turkey, while the Iranians’ priority is to send oil and gas to China through Pakistan. However if Turkey promised the Russians that she would prioritize the Russian gas, the Russians could change their stance in Syria. The problem is that Turkey does not want to depend on Russia and she wants to follow her own energy policy.
But I am sure that Putin said that Russia could offer asylum to Assad in order to send a message. Whether the receiver was Assad, the Iranians, the Turks or the Arabs I do not know.
“Putin just suggested it would be easy to grant asylum to Syria’s Assad”, Ιανουάριος 2016
“Obama’s Middle East Balancing Act Tilts Toward Iran”, January 2016
“Russia’s Syria Move Is a Mixed Blessing for Iran”, October 2015