You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Assad Wins as Intra-Syrian Talks Fail

ICE Graveyard 21/04/2016 Arsla Jawaid
ASSAD © Sana Sana / Reuters ASSAD

Since 2011, more than 260,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict while 6.5 million have been internally displaced. 13.5 million people, including 6 million children, are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.
The UN backed Intra-Syrian talks, Geneva III as they were called, strived to address what a political transition in Syria could look like: a unity government under Assad that will include a robust opposition or a new interim government with full executive powers sans Assad. UN Special Envoy, Steffan de Mistura has painstakingly focused on a Syrian-owned and led political transition, which the Syrian government (buoyed by Russian and Iranian support) has deflected at all costs.
Since February 01, talks have been suspended twice. With political transition at the heart of the discussions, Geneva III was unlikely to follow any other fate.
De Mistura, whose predecessors include Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi, has a tremendously uphill task ahead of him and ultimately will find his hands tied as the P5 continue to be at odds. Russia, China and Iran have emerged as strong political and military backers for Assad.
Iran is a powerful regional player having already been involved in the Syrian conflict, overtly or covertly, through proxies like Hezbollah. The lifting of international sanctions in mid-January following the Iranian Nuclear Agreement, has failed to diplomatically prompt Iran to rethink its efforts to support Assad's regime. Instead, Iran's efforts to position itself as a regional energy hub have increased threefold. With eyes set on full membership of the SCO, Iran will be cozying up to a Russian and Chinese endorsement; incidentally both of which have thrown weight behind Assad's regime in Syria.
A fragile ceasefire between the government and rebel forces as well as international support in the form of Russian aerial bombardment and IRGC advisors, has helped the Assad forces regain some territory from ISIS and mount pressure on the group. As the world remains preoccupied with defeating the self-declared caliphate, both Al-Qaraytain and Palmyra have been touted as strong victories by the Assad regime. Launching military operations to free the eastern province of Deir ez-Zor from ISIS and positioning himself as an "effective" strategic player, Assad is forcing the international community to grant him legitimacy, as uncomfortable as it may make them feel.
The Syrian government's recent success provides it with much bargaining power at the negotiating table. The U.S is unlikely to support any political settlement with Assad in power as is Saudi Arabia, Turkey, or the rebel groups. The Saudi Arabia backed coalition of 34 members supports the main opposition delegation, Higher Negotiations Committee (HNC). While it is likely that some players may acquiesce to keeping Assad in power if it means defeating ISIS, the HNC will be least receptive to any such arrangement. Citing the Government's violation of a fragile ceasefire and a deteriorating condition for supplying humanitarian aid, the HNC has withdrawn its formal participation from diplomatic talks in Geneva.
ISIS currently hosts around 30,000 foreign terrorist fighters from 100 different countries, many of whom quote Assad's atrocities as their primary motivation for joining the group. The Syrian crisis remains dynamic and the Assad government is in no hurry to settle it. With victories under its belt, it will exercise delay tactics and military escalation to derail any political solution.
Strategic military victory over ISIS is fairly attainable. Achieving a long-term, sustainable agreement that will prevent similar circumstances from emerging again is far more challenging. Agreements that focus on governance, institutional reform, and economic development are difficult but critical. Eradicating any drivers of radicalization will be even more unlikely in a region that will remain unstable even if the war ends. Militarily defeating ISIS is not the end goal if factors that could continue creating the next generation of violent extremists persist.
Ultimately, any talks focusing on a political roadmap for a transitional government are likely to fail. Peace agreement are more than often about timing. And the timing for pressing for a political transition is just not right.
For now, the Assad government is inadvertently the biggest winner.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon