In shaky holiday truce, Syrian enemies eye victory

Reuters reports: Lakhdar Brahimi’s holiday truce may have saved Syrian lives on Friday, as government troops and rebels drew breath on several fronts – though dozens still shed blood on Eid al-Adha, the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice.

The U.N. envoy, discreetly downbeat since he succeeded a disillusioned Kofi Annan two months ago, could scarcely be surprised at ceasefire breaches that included tank fire and a car bombing; two previous attempts to end the conflict over the past year both quickly descended into ever more bitter fighting.

But more troubling for Brahimi, the Algerian troubleshooter called on to mediate in a civil war that has divided the United Nations, may be that when compared to the ceasefire attempts in January and April, each side seems even less ready now to talk.

“Brahimi faces an impossible task because both sides are still convinced that they can win and are determined to press every advantage,” said Syria expert Joshua Landis, associate professor of Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

Veteran dissident Fawaz Tello, now in exile in Germany, put it bluntly – mediation focused on forming a transitional unity government might have been possible a year ago, he said: “But after all this blood, all this sectarian conflict, it has become impossible. So now it’s a battle – and one side must win.”

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