A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Day One of "Geneva 2"

Today's much-anticipated meeting in Montreux marks the beginning of the "Geneva 2" negotiations over Syria. Like most observers, I don't see a high probability of a major breakthrough that leads to an interim government and the removal of Bashar al-Asad; his Foreign Minister ruled that out yet again today. A best-case scenario might be a ceasefire, even a temporary one, that could allow for relief efforts to aid suffering refugees. (Though of course one could hope for more.) The absence from the table of most of he actual rebel groups who control he battlefield makes even a ceasefire hard to achieve, and day one seems to have mostly been a predictable one, with the two sides denouncing each other.

A solution creating an interim government my be achievable in time, but I fear that the Asad regime's internal support may need to crumble a lot more than it has so far, and recent battlefield successes may have actually reinvigorated it.

The curious dance in which Iran was invited and then disinvited may not have helped that much, either, since Iran is a player and probably would need to be involved in any real breakthrough.


David Mack said...

Pessimism is usually safe regarding Middle East negotiations. But there are upsides. My old pals Walid Moallam and Butheina Shaaban are smarter than their public comments at Montreaux might indicate. Syrian government will have some positive ideas to put on the table that might save the lives of some of the Syrian civilians the government has been pounding. Longer term, Lavrov has got to be really irritated at the ways both Iranian and Syrian governments have weakened the Russian position. In closed talks, we may also start identifying members of current Syrian regime who would be savvy enough to protect their communities and not go down the tube with Bashar. In the long term, he is not much of an insurance policy for anyone. Nearly all concerned governments could accept the principle that neither Bashar nor extremist jihadi groups should determine the fate of Syria.

Anonymous said...

Who is the credible alternative?

Will we wind up trading Mubarak for the "democrat" Sisi?

Or QDaffy for anarchy?