The New York Times reports: Four Syrian rebel commanders huddled in a knot, all broad shoulders and shiny gray suits, surveying the hotel lounge. Gigantic portraits of Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix gazed down at the carpet, a checkerboard of faux zebra-hide in squares of orange and magenta. On a low sofa, a couple snuggled to the sounds of Amy Winehouse.
The fighters decamped to a smokers’ enclosure behind a plate-glass window, its back wall a trompe-l’oeil image of electric-blue waves that made it seem as though they were submerged in a fish tank. It was an effect that fit their mood. They were in Geneva, notionally at least, for peace talks, but back in Syria, the government and its Russian allies were battering insurgents with scores of airstrikes. With their men under fire, the commanders were asking themselves how much longer they could credibly stay.
“Maybe a day,” one, Maj. Hassan Ibrahim, said on Monday night.
By Wednesday, the talks were indeed suspended, as the intense fighting on the ground proved there was as little to talk about as ever.
In an interview earlier, under the watchful eye of an adviser from Saudi Arabia, Major Ibrahim had dutifully projected strength and determination. But when the Saudi man walked away, the Syrian, who had defected from the government army in 2011, leaned forward and confided that the fighters he led in southern Syria were struggling. Supplies of weapons and salaries from the United States and its allies are dwindling. Moving in and out of Jordan is getting harder.
“They are doing it to put pressure on us to accept a political process,” he said, one in which he doubted that the Syrian government — or Russia, a sponsor of the talks — would make any compromise.
Major Ibrahim was reflecting a growing foreboding among the opposition’s fighters and civilians, mirrored by growing hope on the government side, that Washington, interested only in bombing the Islamic State militant group, is ceding the field to Russia and leaving the opposition on its own. [Continue reading…]