Many of the worlds eyes concerned about Syria are fixed on Geneva these days. Many are hoping and praying for a ceasefire, lifting of sieges, and relief for the destitute. I am sorry to say to you all that in spite of the fervent desires of well intending people I think none of that will happen if reality has anything to do with it, Am I a pessimist? I think once you look at the realities it is very difficult to see anything else. Below are my reasons:
The Real Players aren’t in Geneva
The true realities are not being acknowledged. Case in point: Who is really negotiating these talks? Salem Meslet, spokesman of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC), said: “We came here to discuss with the special envoy UN resolution 2254; lifting the sieges and stopping the crimes done by Russian air strikes in Syria, and I believe we received positive messages.” It’s a fair question to ask exactly who does the HNC represent? For the sake of time let’s focus on two groups who are not present; Ahrar Ash Sham and Jabha Nusra. Many out there do not like Jabha Nusra because of the their direct links to Al Qaida. In spite of the fact that Nusra leader, Abu Muhammad Jolani, has publicly stated that attacks outside of Syria will not be staged, planned, or financed from Syrian territory under his control. Some may believe that and some may not. Fair enough. As for Ahrar Sham the Iranians and Russians were adamant that they are “terrorists” and must not be on the list of invitees. I confirmed yesterday that Ahrar is not a part of the Geneva talks.
The two largest groups fighting in northern Syria are Ahrar and Nusra. Anything agreed upon in Geneva cannot be implemented on the ground without them. That’s reality. Not only are they the two largest individual groups but they are a part of a larger 8 group coalition called Jaysh Al Fatah whose authority and control has been growing exponentially since the beginning of 2015. None of those groups are a party to the Geneva talks either. Much of the opposition to the Syrian regime is comprised of Islamic groups (this doesn’t include ISIS), however much of the attendees at the Geneva gathering are secular groups and even regime tolerated “opposition” parties. This can in no way create a true ceasefire. Slain Isreali Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said: “You don’t make peace with friends. You make it with very unsavory enemies.”
Assad Doesn’t Care about Bad Press
Concessions are made only when one or more of the negotiating parties are either pressured to do so. Who is pressuring the Syrian regime? Let’s take a look at recent history to get a proper perspective:
-It is internationally documented that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons on it’s own people. There were even video images of the effects of the attack. It was all put before the world’s eyes in undeniable fashion. It lasted in the media for several weeks, Obama’s famous “red line” gauntlet turned out to be a mirage, and then the story just faded away.
-Schools and medical facilities are bombed regularly. Just a few days ago a British financed bakery catering to 18,000 people in Hazano was hit by a purported Russian airstrike. It barely made a blip on the media screen
-The regime has actually starved tens of thousands of people including the well documented situation in Madaya. “It is totally unacceptable that people continue to die from starvation, and that critical medical cases remain in the town when they should have been evacuated weeks ago,” said Brice de le Vingne, MSF’s director of operations. The story was big news for around 10 days and then…nothing. The world continues to see the images but there are no tangible results regarding it.
Who really cares what the Syrian regime does? Well, no one actually, that is if you are referring to the people who can actually do something about it of course. Millions of Tweets, Facebook likes, and news soundbites haven’t motivated anyone to pressure the Assad regime. Quite the contrary, the Russians and Iranians joined and helped them in their war crimes yet there has been no true isolation of Russia or Iran from the powers that be around the world. So as long as the regime knows it can do whatever it likes and no one will do anything more than give them some bad press, then they will keep on marching to their own tune.
Selfish World Desires
In the end, it is clear that the world’s powers do not see a real problem with a continued Assad presence. It was at one time (another) red line for international powers. However that red line has now turned green and Assad has the tolerance needed for him to remain. The world is in a self induced denial that Islamic factions are the backbone of the revolution and therefore they continue to try and field as many new secularists with no real backing on the ground as possible. This, of course is all at the expense of the Syrian people. So don’t expect much from Geneva.