Assad regime to attend Geneva talks, says Russia

posted at 10:41 am on May 24, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

All right, it appears that Moscow has finally convinced Bashar al-Assad to attend peace talks in Geneva to resolve the two-year civil war in Syria.  Now what? It’s not clear that the rebels want to attend either, or who would even represent them in a conference:

The Syrian government has agreed to participate in an international peace conference coordinated by Russia and the United States, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

“We note with satisfaction that Damascus has confirmed its readiness in principle to participate in an international conference in the interest of the Syrians themselves finding a political path to a settlement of the conflict that has been devastating for the country and the region,” the spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich, said in a statement.

John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov had been negotiating this since early this year.  Lavrov’s job was to get Assad to the table.  Ours was to get representatives of the rebels to do the same, but so far we don’t seem to be succeeding.  The only plan for a transition comes from someone who already left the rebel council, and the rebels apparently aren’t terribly interested in what he has to say:

Sheik Khatib’s plan, published on his official Facebook page, would retain some members of the current government. Under it, Mr. Assad would hand power to Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa or Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi within 30 days of accepting the plan.

Subsequent measures include dissolving Parliament and transferring legislative powers to an agreed-upon candidate to handle the transition. Sheik Khatib added that the current government would continue to govern for 100 days, restructure the security and military apparatus, and release political prisoners.

But it is not clear whether any other members of the opposition coalition will support the plan. “No one listened to him when he was still head of the coalition; why would they listen to him now?” said an activist contacted via Skype in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria, who declined to give her name.

And it is unlikely to appeal to the rebels fighting Mr. Assad’s army and its allies on the ground, who say they want Assad loyalists to pay for their actions.

Khatib left because no one was listening to him.  The rebels had already turned radical and extreme, as evidenced by their ruthless imposition of shari’a law wherever they control the ground. Their most effective fighting force, Jabhat al-Nusra, has proclaimed itself an al-Qaeda affiliate.  These aren’t moderates looking for a negotiated, power-sharing solution, and they’re not going to even bother with a Khatib-esque pretense for public consumption.  Don’t expect our efforts to get AQ allies to the Geneva table to meet with much success.

So why would Moscow push Assad to Geneva in the first place?  I suspect it’s to get the West to back away from Syria by humiliating them in this process.  If Moscow delivers and the US can’t, then it undermines our insistence on intervention against Assad, which is a great outcome for both Assad and the Russians.  It cements their sphere of influence in the region and exposes the rebels for what they actually are — extremists bent on establishing another shari’a state on the Mediterranean.  If some rebels can be convinced to show up, they’ll be instantly discredited with Jabhat al-Nusra and their allies and the rebellion will split and disintegrate into infighting.  And if a peace conference succeeded on Assad’s terms, all the better for Moscow.  It’s practically a no-lose scenario for them.

Why, again, are we involved in this fight at all?

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This whole Syria thing is kind of like a civil war directed by Ed Wood.

trigon on May 24, 2013 at 10:57 AM

Ours was to get representatives of the rebels to do the same, but so far we don’t seem to be succeeding.

John Kerry is incompetent as SecState? Imagine my surprise! /s

RoadRunner on May 24, 2013 at 10:58 AM

So why would Moscow push Assad to Geneva in the first place? I suspect it’s to get the West to back away from Syria by humiliating them in this process.

We don’t need Russia to humiliate the U.S. in the eyes of the world; we’ve got Kerry and President Choom doing that already.

RoadRunner on May 24, 2013 at 11:00 AM

The evil empire never really went away and today is even embraced by Barky and gang.

HomeoftheBrave on May 24, 2013 at 11:06 AM

It’s not clear that the rebels want to attend either, or who would even represent them in a conference:

So Syria is the new Israel? Well, except for that whole dictator thing.

Fenris on May 24, 2013 at 11:08 AM

What are America’s choices here, of who runs Syria?

Assad, or al Quaeda?

Liam on May 24, 2013 at 11:14 AM

From my friend jeremix. ; )

Bmore on May 24, 2013 at 11:16 AM

I say let this be Russia`s headache. If Assad falls they can be AQ`s newest allies and we should let them know that.

ThePrez on May 24, 2013 at 11:23 AM

Wow!
Who would have thought that Obama and his gangster Administration could turn an ole Vietnam Vet into a supporter of Vladimir Putin.

But they have.

there it is on May 24, 2013 at 11:27 AM

Why, again, are we involved in this fight at all?

Good question. We do not have a dog in this fight. Needless to say the Assad regime is evil, but the people likely to replace him are at best, no better than him, and at worst our sworn enemies and jihadists.

simkeith on May 24, 2013 at 11:39 AM

Why, again, are we involved in this fight at all?

So we don’t have to catalog and account for all of the Iraqi and Libyan weapons that are there. It will be inconvenient for all to find what the convoy’s from Iraq were carrying and what Ambassador Stevens was actually doing in Benghazi.

oldroy on May 24, 2013 at 3:10 PM