Talks in Geneva between the combatants in Syria’s civil war broke down earlier today. US Secretary of State John Kerry marched to a podium to express his dismay over the situation, and put the blame on three forces that are enabling Bashar al-Assad to remain in power and “double down” on a military solution to the conflict. To the surprise of exactly no one, those forces are Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia:
“Right now, Bashar Assad has not engaged in the discussions along the promised and required standard that both Russia spoke up for and the regime spoke up for,” Kerry said during a press conference in Jakarta.
He said the Syrian leader’s team “refused to open up one moment of discussion” of a transitional government to replace Assad’s regime. “It is very clear that Bashar Assad is trying to win this on the battlefield instead of coming to the negotiating table in good faith,” Kerry added.
Kerry also had harsh words for Assad’s allies in Moscow, saying Russia needs to be a part of the solution, rather than contributing aid and weapons to him which, “are in fact enabling Assad to double down.”
Russia has told the U.S. it was committed to helping create a transitional government, Kerry said, but has not delivered “the kind of effort to create the kind of dynamic by which that could be achieved.”
And this surprises … whom, exactly? Let’s start with Iran. We’re currently negotiating with Tehran on an end to their nuclear-weapons program, while Hezbollah is intervening on behalf of Assad in Syria, whom we oppose. In what world, diplomatic or otherwise, does this make any sense at all? Iran and Hezbollah need Assad in their camp in order to leverage Syria against the West and Israel. The only reason we’re not sold on an outright intervention to blow Assad out of Syria is because the alternative is worse, with al-Qaeda controlling ground in Iraq and Syria now thanks to American retreats in the former country.
Russia, meanwhile, wants to keep up its arms sales, prevent the West from creating another failed state on the Mediterranean, and to stick his thumb in the eye of NATO. One of those three is actually a good idea, and perhaps we should be asking ourselves how we got to this point in the first place. But the other two make it very clear that Russia is no ally, and that the Obama administration’s “reset button” to Moscow sent a very clear signal that the White House has no idea what it’s doing in the Middle East any longer. No one, and I mean no one, who has read any history at all could possibly be shocked, shocked that a Russian autocrat is ready and willing to exploit a Western failure in this part of the world.
National Journal’s Ron Fournier beat me to the punch in awarding John Kerry the Captain Louis Renault Award for today, which shows just how well-deserved it is.
By the way, here’s the alternative in Syria (NSFW):
ISIS arrived in Addana about a year ago, initially welcomed in the conservative town by Islamist fighters. But within a few months, ISIS had entrenched itself and begun exerting its harsh order through what one fighter calls “terrorism and punishment.”
“ISIS came in and took over one area and announced it was an Islamic state and did whatever they wanted,” Abu Sa’ed says.
In the passenger’s seat, fellow fighter Abu Jaafar sighs, his AK-47 trained out the window.
“They used to leave the bodies of people they executed at the checkpoint for days,” he says. “The corpses would rot. No one could avoid looking at them.”
Amid the civil war in Syria, another war is taking place — one that pits moderate and Islamist rebels against radicals from ISIS, a group so radical that even al Qaeda has reportedly distanced itself from it. Both groups of fighters are opposed to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.