You probably heard that the United States and Russia have been working together to try to bring Syria and the rebels currently trying to overthrow their dictator to the table. Talks are scheduled to begin this week, but as of the eleventh hour there were still questions remaining as to who exactly was going to represent the rebel side of the equation. (Reuters)
Syrian peace talks meant to begin this week were stalled on Monday partly over the question of who would represent the opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he expected clarity within a day or two, and expressed support for the United Nations envoy who has the tricky task of issuing invitations for the first talks in two years to end the 5-year-old civil war.
I guess they couldn’t get hold of the five guys we trained to fight over there. So we’ve got several different groups fighting in the streets, many of whom probably aren’t even from Syria, and they’re mixed in with a bunch of jihadists. Out of that mix, two foreign nations are going to attempt to settle on a couple of them to represent the whole insurgency. Sound easy enough, right?
But even if they do manage to agree on a couple of fighters for a free trip to Europe and finger sandwiches with John Kerry, it sounds like there isn’t going to be much actual “negotiating” going on, at least on the Syrian government’s side of things. President Bashar al-Assad is willing to go, but claims he has no intention of putting anything on the table. (Daily Caller)
A Syrian official said in state media Sunday that President Bashar al-Assad will not be making any concessions to rebel groups in upcoming peace talks.
These peace talks, located in Geneva, are supposed to begin Monday but may be delayed over disagreement about which parties belong at the table and which do not, The Associated Press reports…
Assad isn’t feeling pressure to come to the table, but has said that he will. But according to Mohamad Alloush, negotiator for the rebel opposition, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is applying some serious pressure to the rebel side to drop some of its demands.
Making an attempt at peace instead of war is almost always worth the effort, but this case may wind up being the exception that proves the rule. What precisely are we hoping to accomplish here and, perhaps more to the point, who is going to enforce the provisions of any agreement which might be reached? The various rebel groups really seem to have only one significant demand and that’s for Assad to be gone, preferably a head shorter when he leaves town. For his part, Assad has no plans on leaving “unless he is voted out of office” and he essentially owns the election process, so that’s not going to happen. And now we find out that even if there were some other areas where the rebels would like to make progress, he’s not going to listen to those requests either. That’s not to mention the fact that he’s got Putin on his side and the Russians have a base in his country now, so why would he leave or worry about compromise?
And none of this addresses the issue of ISIS. They’re the real power out in the streets at the moment and nobody wants them at the table. (Not that they’d come even if they were invited, except possibly with a couple of suicide vests strapped on.) I suppose having the rebels come to peace with the government in Damascus would lower the temperature a bit and make it harder for ISIS to operate, but they seem to be so entrenched in other parts of the nation right now that they may just ignore Assad’s home turf anyway.
If John Kerry manages to pull anything meaningful off here I’m ready and willing to tip my hat to him and offer a big round of applause for doing the seemingly impossible. But I’m not holding my breath at this point.