Thursday, October 24, 2013

Geneva II?

Will there be a Geneva II conference on Syria? A group of 11 Foreign Ministers, including the US, UK, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other "Friends of the Syrian Opposition" met in London Monday to prepare the groundwork for the Geneva II conference. However, there is at present no guarantee that this conference will take place. The main sticking point is that the major Syrian opposition group, the Syrian National Council, will not accept Pres. Assad as a participant in the conference nor will they accept any interim governing body for Syria that includes him or his followers of the Ba'ath Party. This is perhaps understandable given the degree of mayhem and murder that the Assad regime has inflicted on the Syrian people in order to stay in power, namely over 100,000 dead in 2 years of civil war, over 2 million refugees and an estimated 5 million displaced persons within Syria.

But, the supporters of Assad, namely Iran, Russia and China, are not prepared to allow such a conference to proceed without the participation of what they consider to be the legitimate government of Syria, namely the Assad regime. At the same time as continuing to expand their financial and material support for the main Syrian opposition groups, including the Free Syrian Army, the Friends of the Opposition led by US Secty of State Kerry, are trying to argue that the rift over the participation of the Assad regime in the Geneva II conference should be discussed at the conference. This is splitting hairs, since the Syrian opposition fighting on the ground in Syria will not hear of any such consideration. In fact today the official Syrian opposition announced that it will not attend the Geneva II conference.

Under those circumstances what would be the point of having such a conference? At the same time as providing more support (but not weapons) to the opposition, the US and allies are trying to force them to negotiate with representatives of the Assad Government, which they refuse to do. Although the Saudis, Qataris and probably the Turks are supplying the opposition with weapons, what can the US do, except maybe to threaten to reduce their support. But, that won't work since all they supply is non-military materiel, such as food and medications.

The Saudis turned down a place on the UN Security Council because they are disgusted by the fact that it has been ineffectual as regards Syria, all action (except the chemical weapons program) have been blocked by Russia and China. How the Syrian situation will eventually play out is unclear, but the fighting on the ground has reached a stalemate barring an unexpected turnaround only a diplomatic solution now seems possible.


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