It’s better to not even talk about Geneva II

No breakthrough can be expected to emerge from the upcoming Syria peace conference

Raed Omari
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With the Geneva II peace conference on Syria likely to be the only way to end the more than two-and-a-half-years of Syria’s conflict, definitely as determined by the U.S. and Russia, maintaining the status quo, if not failure, is the least that can be said about the outcomes of the long-delayed high-level meeting.

In other words, no breakthrough outcomes are expected to emerge from the conference that has been always subject to procrastination despite its urgency status with regard to the unrestrained bloodshed in Syria and the unprecedented large-scale suffering.

All in all, the Geneva II conference might just not happen. It might not regardless of America’s and Russia’s vowed determinedness to go to the Swiss capital, simply like when the U.S. has decided not to carry out military strike against the Syrian regime even after it has its “red line” warning on chemical weapons was crossed.

The drama of the “red line” warnings on Syria has turned out this time to be given by Tehran to Washington with news reports about the former threatening the latter of ‘severe consequences” in case of crossing the red line of the Syrian front.

In all rhetoric of the key players on Syria, bloodshed and human suffering has proved to be not a “red line.” It is all interests and interests only.

Again, the peace conference on Syria is always subject to “cold-blood” procrastination, although an unmistakable sign of weakness in the international diplomacy, is anyway an inseparable element of the absurdity and perplexity engulfing the Syrian crisis since its very outbreak in March 2011.

The Geneva II conference on the peaceful settlement of the Syrian conflict has been postponed from mid-November this year to the end of the month, and possibly even at the beginning of December or January the year after. It was scheduled for the end of October and then it was about the middle of November.

Why this gloominess?

Now why the promised Geneva II conference is not to achieve any tangible progress lies primarily in the U.S.-led international community’s failure to help build up an effective and fully-fledged Syrian opposition body capable of confronting the well-backed Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, if not militarily, at least politically.

The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been urging the reluctant opposition leaders to take part in the peace negotiations with the regime, has given no guarantees to alleviate their concerns except for the same “rhetorical” assertions of support.

Raed Omari

The U.S. has granted no “political coverage” to the helpless Syrian opposition whatsoever – meaning accreditation and diplomatic recognition – and yet insisting on its attendance of the Geneva conference to sit down at a negotiating table with the arrogant and “armed to the teeth” Syrian regime and their die-hard allies, Russia and Iran. It is a pitiful situation.

As such, the projected Geneva II conference is to be one-sided with the Syrian regime empowered enough, as opposed to the abandoned opposition, to have the upper hand and final say on the meeting and its agenda.

The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been urging the reluctant opposition leaders to take part in the peace negotiations with the regime, has given no guarantees to alleviate their concerns except for the same “rhetorical” assertions of support. Instead of just telling the opposition leaders to “make up their mind,” it would have been better for Kerry to help them make up their mind.

It is no secret that aside from Saudi Arabia and “coy” Jordan and the UAE and “inadequate” France, and the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), there is no other country that showed constant and unaltered support of Syria’s largest opposition body, even Turkey.

Inasmuch as the Syrian regime’s forces and their supporters from the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi militants are aware of such a big difference and have been expanding their operations within the rebel-held areas in a bid to strengthen the president's hand ahead of the Geneva conference, the Syrian opposition, represented exclusively by the SNC, has been showing reluctance to participate in the much-delayed talks.

No ‘strategic breakthrough’

What is certain is that the military expansions of the forces loyal to Assad into the rebel-held territories are not to achieve any “strategic breakthrough” in the ongoing struggle, simply because the Syrian crisis has proved to be not a domestic but a trans-border issue that is entirely decided by international powers according to their interests.

Anyway, the Syrian regime’s new gains will certainly boost its “morals” and consequently its bargaining position and arrogant stance during the negotiations, pushing the SNC-affiliated Free Syrian Army for relentless military confrontations to regain balance on the ground.

As a “101” diplomacy norm, peace negotiations are always preceded by a U.N.-monitored ceasefire to be taken as a sign of good will or an indication of seriousness on the side of a struggling opponents but no such precondition has been maintained ahead of the projected peace talks. There is no even any talk about a cessation of hostilities in Syria. There are actually encouraging factors to continue war by sides, the regime and the opposition. Yet, Geneva II is still termed as “peace conference.”

Another factor that contributes to such gloomy outlook shrouding the Geneva conference has to do also with the projection of no well-defined agenda to be discussed in the Swiss capital – paramount of which is the transitional government in Damascus.

The U.S. proving day over day that it has no major stake in Syria

Whether Assad to be included in the planned, or promised, transitional government or not is an issue that has not been made clear by the Americans and the Russians who will broker the peace negotiations.

It is true that setting no preconditions ahead of any peace conference sometimes helps advancing the talks that rely on concessions mostly but in Syria’s case, it is different.

Assad’s departure has so far been an irreversible demand of the Syrian opposition but the president’s acts on the ground and also his willingness to attend Geneva II conference all indicate that he is not ready to make any compromise on conceding power or standing for president again in 2014 – the factor that failed the last year's Geneva I conference. Then, there will be a new talk about Geneva III conference.

‘Mega’ matters

No items on the rebuilding of the massively-destroyed Syria, the millions of Syrian refugees, prisoners, the arms black market or the sporadic armed groups have been placed on the agenda of the conference which is said to be the beginning of a comprehensive political solution to the Syrian crisis. Are such “mega” matters to be handled by the interim government which will definitely be weak and of incomplete sovereignty? That actually if the transitional government is realized.

The U.S. proving day over day that it has no major stake in Syria with reaching a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, maybe through Syria, being its primary concern has also a deep impact on the disappointing atmosphere surrounding the Geneva conference.

The Syrian opposition leaders’ reluctance and also divided position on Geneva conference has to do with their conviction of the U.S. shifting of priorities from Syria to Iran or Iran via Syria. Many Arab states supporting the Syrian opposition are also aware of such an aspect and maybe that is the reason behind the lack of zeal they show on the projected peace talks.

Assuming also that Israel’s security and oil supply are the prime factors governing America’s dealings in the region, adding to that the overlapping nature of all the Middle Eastern issues, the troubling atmosphere engulfing the Geneva II conference on Syria will have in a way or another a deep impact on the progress of the U.S.-sponsored Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations.

In brief, no comprehensive resolution to the Syrian crisis means to comprehensive resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict that can ensure Israel a lasting security within a stale region. The Israelis are aware of that already and that is part of their current dismay over the U.S.’s shifting of priorities on the region.

Again and again, no comprehensive and inclusive solution on Syria has been drafted by the U.S. and Russian superpowers administrating the Syrian crisis. The outcome is certainly more suffering to the Syrian people whose country is open to all horrible scenarios of the “failed state status”, the Iraqi and Libya models and even the Afghan-style disaster. Unfortunately, all for a deal on Iran’s nuclear program.

Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via [email protected], or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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