11 feb 2016
The collapse of the negotiations between representatives of the Assad regime of Syria, and the representatives of the resistance groups and freedom fighters last week in Geneva was inevitable. The two parties are far from coming to a common ground. In fact it is impossible to either reach an accord, taking into consideration the facts on the ground, or for this kind of negotiation to bear fruit. Assad’s regime think that all opposition to his regime are no more than ‘Terrorists’ paid by foreign powers,and that the people of Syria adore his regime, acknowledging its ‘sacrifice’ to look after their well being, prosperity and general interest as they see fit,and who ever thinks the opposite is either labelled with ‘Disloyal’ or “Traitor”.
Men and women in the negotiation team of the government of Assad, cannot step one inch away from what they have been told by Damascus. If anyone dares to differ, even in words, Assad will in fact have them punished severely, based on previous experiences with those officials, who it is feared could become “kings greater than the king”. This was apparent from the statements of the Chief Negotiator of the regime who came to Geneva- Bashar Al-Jaafari. His public statement revealed a tone of arrogance. As he was sending messages to his boss in Damascus,he emphasized a number of times that the “other party” should adhere to what Damascus was dictating. Furthermore, he did not stop short of describing the United Nations Special Envoy, Mr. De Matura, as ‘siding with the opposition’ and that he could face the fate of Al-Ibrahimi, the last UN envoy!
The gulf between the two parties is wide open. If they were left alone with the very unable team of UN representatives-an unwilling great power, to come to solution, nothing would come from these worthless meetings. The people of Syria will go on suffering, thousands more will be killed, and hundreds of thousands more will be displaced. Men, women and children will lose their future in this mess engulfing Syria today.
A good number of Arab analysts blame the big powers, namely the United States and Russia, both of whom have an interest in letting this bloody conflict go on. This is either done by being the passive partner, like the United states and the West in general, paying lip service by condemning the brutality committed by forces defending the regime, and shedding crocodile tears about their victims, or being active like the Russians- using their military hardware to shell and destroy town and villages,killing thousands of people, just to keep Assad’s regime in power. Some of the observers think that there is a tacit agreement between the two power known by small number of officials in both camps. Although this kind of thinking belongs to the old theory of “conspiracy” no more, it is backed up by what we are witnessing on the ground.
The key solution in Syria is not collecting money from donor states to elevate the appalling state of Syrian refuges all over the region and beyond. They will keep coming so long as the conflict has not been resolved. Neither is it to let the parties fight it out to last man and bullet. This is a recipe for disaster in the region as a whole.
However on the other hand it looks as though the two big powers USA and Russia, are ‘biting each other’s fingers’, and no one is willing to let go! The reasons they are ‘biting the fingers’ goes beyond the Middle East. It is the old rivalry between the two in so many places, based on soliciting influence, advancing interests, and maintaining national pride.
The Russians see the Syrian theater as an opportunity to win points, and to show their new power, which was lost with the collapse of Soviet Union. They are coming to the fore again. Because of the collapse of the Soviet Union empire, Russia lost a great deal of influence worldwide, and they think it is high time to gain back some of what has been lost.
Washington, on other hand, has the Afghan\ Iraq syndrome. It has suffered this kind of syndrome since its involvement in a lengthy regional war, in which its soldiers were killed in a foreign land. War sounds negative to the American public opinion, and they have a lot of excuses to give for being aloof. Two of these are that the Middle East is like ‘shifting sand’ (both borders and allegiances’, and that the outcomes of the Iraqi experience show that this strategy should not be tried again.
The other excuse for passivity is to let Russia be humiliated in the Syrian theater, as fighting a guerilla war never ends with triumph!
The Russians have their own reasons as well. They think that they are gaining ground, politically and strategically from a traditional US sphere of influence, and that they are continuing to fight the ‘Terrorists’,to prevent them reaching their back yard. It fears the spreading influence of a number of Islamic societies, either in its own back year or in their neighborhood. So it is in their national interests to be in Syria.
Both political arguments, and deeds on the ground, are paying little attention to the human tragedy. The calamity affecting Syrian refugees has not been seen since the Second World War, although hundreds of conflicts have occurred on our planet since then. The number of refugees, and the suffering is the greatest in the last 70 years!
To add humiliation to injury, the American policy on this issue has a dual stance, obvious to any observer. The statements coming from Washington referring to the Syrian predicament have conflicting messages. On the one hand America urges the resistance forces and the opposition to negotiate with the regime, and on other hand it hints that Assad could be around in power for a while. Meanwhile it commits itself to the deal reached by the powers concerned in Vienna, which stated that a ‘transition government with full authority’ should be in place in Syria soon, and a cease-fire should be in place as soon as the talks and negotiations start.
The Russians on the same day as the negotiations declared that they will continue bombing until ‘Terror has been defeated’.It seems that the regional powers, Arabs and Turks, will have to step in and take whatever measures are necessary to meet the challenge ahead, by thinking of ‘the second alternative’, which is to ‘pullout the thorn with their own hands’, otherwise we all face another five years or more of chaos in the region!