Reuters reports: More than two and a half years into the civil war devastating Syria, the United States and Russia are pushing the combatants to the negotiating table in Geneva, but on terms that mark a shift in favour of Bashar al-Assad against the increasingly fragmented rebels seeking to oust him.
Since the August 21 nerve gas attacks on rebel suburbs ringing Damascus, which brought the U.S. to the brink of a missile assault on Assad’s forces, the diplomatic tide has turned against the opposition, which briefly believed external intervention would enable its forces to launch a final offensive.
Instead, the combination of hesitation by President Barack Obama’s administration and an 11th hour deal brokered by Russia, a key Assad ally, to decommission Syria’s chemical arsenal, has wrong-footed the rebels, now under intense U.S. and European pressure to attend talks in Geneva with a vague agenda.
Syrian opposition advisers and independent analysts fear this could channel the Syrian conflict – like other intractable regional problems such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – into a lengthy and fruitless process. [Continue reading…]