Not much progress at Geneva meeting on Syria violence
World powers agreed Saturday on a plan for ending Syria’s violence – but only by sweeping under the rug unresolved differences over the role Bashar al-Assad should play in a political transition.
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Mr. Annan reminded the meeting’s high-level officials of the serious consequences of failure in his opening remarks. “No one should be in any doubt as to the extreme dangers posed by [this] conflict – to Syrians, to the region, and to the world,” Annan said.Skip to next paragraph
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Ever since Syria’s Arab-spring uprising descended into sustained violence over a year ago, a rising chorus of voices has cautioned that Syria was different from other Arab countries swept up in the revolutionary tide – Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain – and that war in Syria was the one that could engulf the region.
With neighbors that include Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan – not to mention Israel – Syria and full-blown conflict there was most likely to drag in the neighbors’ allies, including the US and NATO, Russia and Iran, experts warned.
The dangers the Syria conflict poses to regional stability were highlighted last week when Syria shot down a Turkish fighter jet, prompting Turkey to call a meeting of its NATO partners. The conflict has also spilled over in a variety of ways into Lebanon and Jordan, while reports that Al Qaeda operatives are crossing over from Iraq to carry out attacks in Syria has set off alarms in Washington.
None of those worrisome developments are likely to improve as long as Syria remains in turmoil and deepening violence, yet international calls for Syrians to somehow come together on their own on a political transition seem unlikely to end the crisis. Assad continues to insist his government is in “all-out war” with “terrorists,” while the Syrian political opposition and the rebels’ Free Syrian Army say there is no chance of an accord with any elements of the Assad regime.
Earlier this week Assad said in an interview with Iranian television that the Syrian crisis could not be resolved from the outside but can only be addressed with a “national model,” one he certainly assumes would include him remaining in power.
Assad, who dismissed the “Libyan model” in the interview as having no relevance to Syria’s case, seems prepared to fight on, especially as he is convinced he can count on the protection of powerful Allies like Russia.
“Let’s keep in mind that Assad has every incentive to continue to fight. He has no place to go,” says Steven Cook, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.
Add to that the fact that the Syrian Free Army, even though it has “grown more capable … remains no match for the Syrian military,” Mr. Cook says. Assad’s forces, he adds, have “proved to be surprisingly resilient.”