The Syrian regime has never negotiated

It was normal to suspend the Syria talks in Geneva, considering it was more of a dialogue of the deaf. There is no point meeting to tackle the crisis amid the absence of agreement among influential powers, particularly Washington and Moscow, for a transitional phase that transfers power from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime.

All solutions that deviate from a transitional phase are a waste of time, as they overlook the fact that the Syrian regime has collapsed, and there are no political or military solutions that can revive it. Do Russia and Iran understand that?

It is impossible to negotiate with the regime because it does not believe in offering concessions.

Khairallah Khairallah

It is impossible to negotiate with the regime because it does not believe in offering concessions. When it is strong, even if its source of power is outside forces - as is the case now - it believes concessions signify weakness. When it is weak, it does not make concessions due to its need to appear strong.

The regime committed a massacre in Hama 34 years ago, killing thousands of people. It used the Muslim Brotherhood’s crimes as an excuse. Some of these crimes were true, but the regime attacked the entire city and destroyed entire neighborhoods. It wanted Hama to be an example to any Syrian who dared raise his or her head. As time passed, the world accepted the massacre.

Before that, in 1976, Syrian troops and apparatuses entered Lebanon in order to control the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and weaken the Christian presence in the small country. No Lebanese city or town was spared from the injustice of the Syrian regime, which first targeted Christian border towns such as Al-Qaa and Al-Ayshya, then Zahle and Beirut’s Ashrafieh. It also did not spare the Sunni city of Tripoli.

The regime only negotiates to buy time. It never wished to regain the Golan Heights. Its negotiations were aimed at maintaining the “no war, no peace” policy with Israel, which served both parties.

Even during the two times when the regime surrendered, no negotiations were held. In 1999, it expelled Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan when Turkey threatened to invade Syria. Before that, the regime was adamant that it was not hosting him, despite evidence provided by Ankara in 1998 such as the address of the apartment where he stayed in Damascus, his phone numbers, and a list of people who had spoken with him.

In the second surrender, the regime pulled its troops out of Lebanon amid protests against it following the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Lebanese had no doubt that the regime was behind the crime.

Failure in Geneva

Based on experiences from the recent past, it is unlikely that anything will be achieved in Geneva. U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has become a mere manager of the crisis. His incapability is not only because he knows nothing about Syria, its people or the regime, but also because Russia and Iran do not want a solution. Both countries are willing to provide the regime with cover to annihilate and displace the Syrian people.

There is no Russian or Iranian war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), only against the Syrian people and the moderate opposition in an attempt to bolster the regime so the opposition accepts a national unity government. However, the fact is that most Syrians reject the regime.

The only positive from Geneva is that the opposition did not boycott the talks. On the contrary, it reiterated its demand for a plan for the regime’s departure. The U.S. surrender to Russia over Syria will not foster progress, but can the status quo continue indefinitely? The Americans and Russians have no desire to end the crisis. All that can be said of the Geneva talks, which are set to last for six months, is that they aim to end Syria itself.

This article first appeared in Al Arab on Feb. 7, 2016.

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Khairallah Khairallah is an Arab columnist who was formerly Annahar’s foreign editor (1976-1988) and Al-Hayat’s managing editor (1988-1998).

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