Syria in stalemate

UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi gestures during a press conference on the Syrian peace talks at the United Nations headquarters on February 13, 2014 in Geneva.(AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE DESMAZES)

The Geneva II peace talks, which generated a huge amount of media coverage this year, have experienced a steady drop off the radar ever since the last session, when U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi frankly labeled them a failure.

Since then, the concerned officials and politicians have made various statements about the situation in Syria, in effect offering the public the following formula: There is no ability to settle the conflict militarily, and there is no agreement on how to settle the conflict politically.

Geneva’s abject failure was in fact a case of no side being willing or able to convince the Syrian regime’s enablers, Russia and Iran, to help move the situation toward a resolution.

Recently, media reports have trumpeted one supposedly “major” development on the ground or another, promising some type of breakthrough offensive by either side. However, the information available thus far indicates that the Syrian war remains mired in stalemate, and also appears set for even bloodier weeks and months to come.

If the Western world and other members of the international community are armed only with a policy of begging Moscow and Tehran to change their stance and pressure their ally, then Syria and its neighbors are in for horrific, destabilizing violence for the foreseeable future, naturally with negative repercussions for all sides. If they believe that Russia is going to show flexibility, given the political turmoil in Ukraine, the location of its other warm-water naval presence, then they are in for a rude surprise.

And as the prospect of a new Geneva round is discussed over the next few weeks, every day will only add 100 to 200 Syrian lives to the death toll.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 28, 2014, on page 7.




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