Josh Rogin writes: In the eyes of the Syrian opposition, Russia and Iran are making a mockery of the peace process, and Kerry’s reluctance to acknowledge this is putting them in deadly harm. It also creates more problems for America’s regional allies, aids the Islamic State and dims the prospects for future peace talks. “The failures of the negotiations end up lowering the credibility of the moderate opposition in front of the Syrian people,” said [Riyad] Hijab. [Hijab is leader of the High Negotiating Committee that represented the Syrian opposition at last week’s meetings in Geneva.] “United States credibility is plummeting within the population of Syria but also in the region as a whole.”
This week, it is Syrians near Aleppo who are paying the price. Regime forces, with Russian support, are advancing toward the Turkish border, threatening to cut off opposition groups and civilians from their source of aid. At least 35,000 people have joined the flood of refugees since the collapse of the talks, ahead of what many anticipate will be another in a long line of starvation sieges the regime is perpetrating on cities. Hijab said there are now 18 cities under siege, three more than when the talks began.
Moscow wants the peace talks to fail, Hijab said. He accused the Russian air force of using illegal cluster bombs indiscriminately against civilians. (Human rights groups support those claims.) “The situation has taken a horrible turn, specifically in terms of the scorched earth policy of the Russian aircraft and the way that they are bombing, literally destroying everything,” he said. “The other side has been moving to ensure the failure of any negotiation through horrendous bombardment.”
Hajib said the Obama administration is still pressuring the opposition to return to talks despite the ongoing offensive, but the opposition is insisting that Russia adhere by the UN resolutions first. In a press conference with reporters last week, Kerry said of the Syrian-Russian attacks on civilians, “It’s not going to stop just by whining about it.” He called on rebel leaders to return to the negotiating table. [Continue reading…]
While listening to U.S. State Department spokesmen John Kirby at yesterday’s press briefing, one might not have accused him of whining, but instead adopting President Obama’s standard position: a baseless confidence that whoever can make the most reasonable argument will win the day — as though politics conforms to the rules of a debating society.
Kerry and Obama must be very perplexed about how unreasonable it is that Russia regards bombing as more useful than diplomacy. But what is actually very unreasonable is the notion that anyone would be fooled by Washington’s toothless efforts at peacemaking.