Syrian peace talks — fake diplomacy is no diplomacy

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An editorial in The Guardian says: There can be no more urgent matter than putting an end to the terrible human tragedy and the lethal regional destabilisation produced by the Syrian conflict. This is a war in which 300,000 people have died, which has internally displaced half the country’s population and which has caused more than 4 million to flee the country altogether. Syria has become the worst humanitarian catastrophe of our time. The plight of its people is also dangerously destabilising Europe and exposing weaknesses in its institutions. If the humanitarian crisis were not enough on its own, then the need to resolve Europe’s refugee crisis at its source would be reason enough to pay close attention to the peace talks that are scheduled to begin on Friday in Geneva. Yet even getting everyone round the table is looking fraught.

In the current climate, the stated aim of the talks appears breathtakingly ambitious. Mandated by a UN resolution passed in December, their purpose is to organise a gathering of representatives of both the Assad regime and opposition groups, in the hope that it could eventually lead to the formation of a new government, and later, elections. At this stage of a devastating war, it is tempting to see the very possibility of talks as an achievement in itself. Yet for several reasons there is a danger that they amount to nothing more than fake diplomacy.

First, the question of protecting Syrian civilians has all but fallen off the agenda. There can be no progress without attention to their plight. Second, western powers seem to have made key political concessions to Russia and Iran, the main enablers of the Assad regime. As as result, the Syrian dictator will feel even more empowered to pursue the mass targeting of his own countrymen and to continue a war of attrition in the belief that he will ultimately come out the winner. [Continue reading…]

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Comments

  1. Óscar Palacios says:

    “…western powers seem to have made key political concessions to Russia and Iran, the main enablers of the Assad regime.” Oh, those evil Russians and Iranians! However, the editorial fails to mention that the Kurds were not included as a key political concession to Turkey. I had to read the comments to find out about that, and the fact that this is not mentioned is simply bewildering. Shame on that editorial by The Guardian.

  2. Paul Woodward says:

    The main thrust of the editorial is to challenge the notion that a genuine diplomatic process has been undertaken. In the absence of such a process, it becomes a moot point who happens to be sitting at the so-called negotiating table if talks serve as nothing more than a distraction while the war continues as before.

    Why pour scorn on The Guardian while implying that Russia and Iran are victims of undue criticism? Don’t lose perspective on which powers are having the greatest influence in reshaping the Middle East.

    As for how that reshaping process is playing out right now, some of the most disturbing signs are coming from the areas in Iraq where ISIS has been driven out only for Iran-backed Shia militias to engage in sectarian cleansing.

    Deepening sectarianism is a guarantee for prolonged conflict and the principle culprits in driving this trend are Iran and Saudi Arabia.

  3. Óscar Palacios says:

    Don’t get me wrong. I like The Guardian, but that does not exempt them from criticism. I’m not implying that Russia and Iran are victims of undue criticism either. I’m expressing my disappointment because Turkish meddling in the process contributes every much as Iran’s or Russia’s meddling to make this indeed an act of fake diplomacy, but that wasn’t mentioned at all.

    The editorial later goes on to mention Iran and Russia again: “Meanwhile, Russia and Iran are demanding that the opposition’s delegation to Geneva is modified to include elements approved by the Assad regime and favourable to their own interests. If the US and its allies do not reject this demand, it will in effect kill the legitimacy of the delegation in the eyes of Syrians themselves, and thwart any hope of a genuine negotiation.” So they have enough room for additional criticism of The Bad Guys, but again not a word about Turkish refusal to include the Kurds.

    And the writer is at it again in the last paragraph: “the proper place for pressure is on Mr Assad’s backers in Moscow and Tehran.”

    Ok, I agree that Russia and Iran are Assad’s main enablers, and no doubt that Assad’s regime is genocidal. But the Kurds have also been the victims of a ruthless, sustained and decades-long campaign by Turkey. Kurds are now a major player not only in Syria, but also in Iraq, and they deserve attention. I think they are more moderate than many of their foes. The Guardian added to their plight by not mentioning them at all, perhaps as a polite concession to Turkey.

    So I’ll still be wondering why that writer at The Guardian refused to consider Turkish (or Saudi Arabia’s) meddling simply not worthy of mention. Hey, a sentence would have been enough, it would’ve added balance to an otherwise fine piece.