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There will be no cease-fire in Syria

At least not one that matters.

By Staff writer / October 18, 2012

UN Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, speaks during a press conference after meeting Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, at the government palace, in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012.

Bilal Hussein/AP

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The UN special envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi (who did such a bang up job as UN special envoy for Iraq and Afghanistan) has been lobbying for a three-day ceasefire in Syria to mark a Muslim holiday.

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Mr. Brahimi wants the cease-fire for three days around Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday that celebrates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son at God's command. Iran and Turkey, which support the regime of Bashar al-Assad and the rebellion, respectively, are on board. Will there be a cease-fire? The smart money should bet against it. There have been promised cease-fires before that have been completely ignored. There's no particular reason to think this would be any different.

And while country's like Iran and Turkey (and the US, and Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, each in their own fashion) are backing factions in the Syrian civil war, that doesn't give them much, if any, control over their behavior. It is often foolishly imagined that a paid rebel or government is a bought rebel or government. They maintain their own interests.

But perhaps there will be a brief pause in Syria's brutal war. What then? Brahimi is apparently telling reporters that he hopes a temporary cease-fire around the holiday, which starts on Oct. 24, will form the basis for a negotiated settlement to the war.

If he really believes that he will be sorely disappointed. There are simply no grounds for a negotiated settlement at this point. The rebels will not accept the survival of Assad's Alawite dominated Baathist regime, nor will the foreign sponsors in the Gulf of the increasingly well-armed Sunni Islamist component of the rebellion. Perhaps Brahimi is hoping that Assad and the regime hard core will use the cease-fire to negotiate their own arrests and seizure of their assets? Or perhaps the rebels, after so much bloodshed and threats from the government to lay wasted to their whole families, will decide that the current dictatorship really isn't so bad and pack it in?

Of course not.

Brahimi does not have an enviable job. UN envoys, by long tradition, are required to promise against all evidence to the contrary that a cease-fire or negotiated settlement is close at hand, even when it remains as far away as ever.

The Syrian civil war will resolve itself some day. But at the moment, the chances that would be on mutually acceptable terms to the rebellion and regime are highly unlikely.

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