Destructive ambiguity

File - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (R) greets Iran's President Hassan Rohani during the U.N. General Assembly at U.N. Headquarters in New York in this file photo taken September 26, 2013. (REUTERS/Eric Thayer)

The run-up to the Geneva II peace conference on Syria has been thrown into disarray because the organizers were anything but transparent and forthright about a crucial event that will affect the future of a country of nearly 25 million people.

Ban Ki-moon’s decision to invite Iran made a mockery of the preparations for the gathering, as he conveniently forgot to explain why a country that never endorsed the first Geneva conference deserved to be a part of round two.

The international community and the sponsors of Geneva II, which spend so much of their time criticizing the Syrian opposition for being disorganized, should take a long, hard look at themselves in the mirror. Did they actually expect such a development to pass without incident? Do they truly think it’s wise to invite a partner to the vicious fighting to the negotiation table, as if it were a disinterested observer nation? Don’t they believe that the preparations and the invitees’ list should have been concluded weeks ago, and not in a chaotic, last-minute frenzy of dysfunctional diplomatic activity?

Millions of Syrians have indicated that they see nothing positive to come out of Geneva II. Every statement by Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies only deepens their doubts, as the conference is headed for abject failure.

They see Assad flagrantly contradicting the statements of key foreign officials, who insist that he will play no role in a future Syria. They’re well aware that Assad wants to turn Geneva into a stale “anti-terrorism” conference, as if everyone inside and outside the country is enamored of his brutal, dictatorial rule.

Geneva is not an occasion for patting on the back; it’s an occasion for hanging heads in shame.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 21, 2014, on page 7.




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