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Geneva 2 Dissolving Via The Politics That Conceived It

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The United Nations states the purpose of Geneva II is to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis. The Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Lakhdar Brahimi said, "The difference between Geneva I and Geneva II is that in Geneva II, Syria will be represented by two delegations, the first representing the Syrian Government [Assad Regime] and the second representing the Syrian Opposition." Unless the final expectation is that Assad will remain in power and the Syrian "Opposition" will go home and shut up, Geneva II sounds like a failure purely based on definition.

On November 1st, Mr. Brahimi reported he had been meeting with senior officials in various countries, including Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, and Syria itself, where he met with President Bashar al-Assad, with "the aim of creating the conditions to hold the conference." He said, "Everyone wants to contribute, one way or the other, to prepare for Geneva II and put an end to the crisis in Syria." Of course by meeting with Iraq, everyone knows that Iran was in the conversation "by proxy." If Iraq (and Iran by proxy) are feeding the Syrian Regime weapons and foreign fighters, why would they be invited to the table at all? This makes absolutely no sense.

syria displaced
A resident of Homs, Syria, shows a building heavily damaged in the renewed rounds of shelling from early June 2012.
Photo: UN/David Manyua

On November 5th, EuroNews delivered the almost inevitable news that Geneva II is looking to be postponed until sometime in December. The given reason was that the key players could not agree on who was attending. Translation: Russia threw a tantrum because Iran was not welcome at Geneva II. Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister said, "no important power should be excluded." This statement in itself explains everything about Russia's interest in the Syria "peace" process.

  1. No one in the Middle East or elsewhere feels Iran is an important power in the Middle East. In fact, most reasonable people believe Iran has nefarious plans for the Middle East that must be kept in check.
  2. Iran has been shipping arms and foreign fighters to augment the Syrian Army. The purpose of this "gift of military support" is to massacre the Syrian People.
  3. The US and other countries are currently trying to negotiate a "peace deal" with Iran at this very moment regarding the development of weapons grade plutonium.

tartus2010
Tartus Naval Base, Syria - built in the Soviet era

Sergei Lavrov went on to say, "All of those with influence on the situation must certainly be invited to the conference. This includes pretty much Syria's neighbors. This includes all countries of the Persian Gulf [aka Arabian Gulf]. This includes not only Arab countries but also Iran." It is a good thing that Sergei realized that he had to DOUBLE QUALIFY his statement, as Iran is neither a neighbor nor an Arab country. The only way that Iran has neighborly access to Syria is through Iraq.

The New York Times reported on November 6th that the Russian Foreign Minister has met Rifaat al-Assad about attending Geneva II in a last ditch effort of "saving peace." Rifaat does not have a close family relationship with his nephew Bashar al-Assad as he was exiled by Hafez al-Assad over a failed coup back in the day. Additionally, he is held in contempt by the People of Syria [aka the opposition] as he is well known in Syria as the "Butcher of Hama." In 1982, more than 30,000 Syrians were massacred in a single day by the Syrian Government to suppress an uprising in Hama. Rifaat was an architect of the slaughter.

According to Siwar al-Assad [Rifaat's son], "President's Assad's imminent departure is a fantasy" and added "I'm not pro-Bashar, but I'm a person who is realistic." He said his father does not "insist that President Assad step down as a prerequisite for talks."

Syrian refugees in Jordan
Tick Tock Syrian Children
Photo: Heba Aly/IRIN

Who really cares what Rifaat al-Assad insists or doesn't insist? I don't believe anyone really cares what Rifaat al-Assad thinks except maybe Russia, Iran and Iraq ... Oh and Assad might care, but only because it could keep him in power a bit longer until some other scheme can be devised. Other than that ... noone cares what Rifaat Assad cares about, wants or insists on as it relates to Syria and Geneva II.

The Russians are inserting themselves at any point they can to influence the "Syria situation" in their favor. It explains why the Russians would reach out to Rifaat as their new "hero." Russia has a deep vested interest in keeping Syria their puppet. Under a new government, Russia's extensive financial investments in Syria could be jeopardized, but more importantly their long-term military lease on the Tartus Naval Base. Tartus is Russia's only naval entrance into the Mediterranean, making it quite a jewel militarily.

The Friends of Syria made it clear that "Assad and his close associates had blood on their hands and had no role in Syria."

The People of Syria expected that Geneva II would ensure:

  1. There is no place for Assad and his regime in Syria
  2. Formation of a transitional governing body with no Assad
  3. Geneva will determine the timeframe for transition

There is no apparent guarantee that Geneva II will follow an Agenda that will assure the People of Syria will be any closer to getting Assad out of their midst. Geneva II is one more opportunity where the international community has bolstered their Syria reputation as - "all talk no action." It shouldn't come as a surprise that the National Coalition is not at all certain they want to participate in the "peace conference."

The National Coalition is made up of many different groups within Syria and expat groups. The coalition leader Ahmat Jarba has demanded strict conditions for the opposition to take part in Geneva II. On behalf of the Coalition, Jarba insists "Assad's departure and governmental change are key success points for the conference." He also states "a ceasefire must be called for the duration of the talks." Some of the members of the National Coalition, including the Syrian National Council and the members from Damascus have firmly said they will not attend under any circumstances.

Will Assad stop his "reign of terror" because anyone tells him to?

The Assad government has rejected any government change as a pre-condition for Geneva II. In fact Assad has clearly stated repeatedly that he has "no intention to relinquish the presidency." Why would anyone think Assad would hand over his "reign of terror" because anyone tells him to? Assadís Information Minister, Omran al-Zohbi said, the Assad government would "refuse to hand over power as desired by al-Faisal [Saudi FM Prince Saud al-Faisal] and certain opponents abroad."

Samir Nashar, who is a member of the National Coalition, told alakhbar "We are leaning towards not taking part in the conference." When asked "Will that position change?" Samir Nashar said, "I don't know, but what I can say is that there's intense [international] political action pushing towards participation. In politics everything is possible."

Isn't that the truth!

If all the promises unfulfilled, mis-expectations, and pre-conditions aren't enough to spell failure for Geneva II, Russia's meddling probably will. alakhbar also reported that the Russian vice foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov said "some opposition members have accepted an offer of informal talks in Moscow to precede the Geneva conference." Who are the "some opposition" the Russians are talking about? This pre-intervention is likely to be a divisive move to undermine the effort of the Friends of Syria and the Arab League, along with the UN Security Council.

On November 10th, the Syrian Coalition Media Office released the following, "The head of the National Coalition said that if Geneva II is not consistent with the principles put forward by the Coalition then it would be nothing but 'a humiliating settlement' that does not meet the aspirations of the Syrian people." He also considered Geneva II as a move by some states to attempt to whitewash their humanitarian faces in front of their own people after they were tarnished by their shameful positions "towards Assad's massacres and atrocities."

Jarba pointed out should the international community insist on taking a position not holding Assad accountable, it is the same as standing against the will of the Syrian people. This would mean it would be impossible for the National Coalition to participate in Geneva II.

"The National Coalition will not participate in a game of international politics," said Jarba "and rather than three no's there will be five no's: 1. No negotiations 2. No peace 3. No recognition 4. No retreat and 5. No to the impotent international community." Sounds like the National Coalition is the only one that really gets it and they are saying "Game Over."

On Other Fronts This Week

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has described Bashar al-Assad as "brutal," adding that "the war in Syria is not just about Bashar al-Assad, it's about the tens of thousands of families who lost their loved ones and their homes and do not want to lose their great country in an endless struggle."

  • Is this supposed to be some kind of mind blowing revelation, either that Secretary Kerry is trying to convince others to believe or is he making sure that everyone understands that Secretary Kerry comprehends the gravity of the situation in Syria?

    Kerry noted that he is "confident of the possibility of setting a date for international peace talks on Syria within days." Kerry made these remarks two days after the failure of the United States and Russia to agree on a date for the talks.

  • @ Mr. Kerry: Anyone can be confident of a possibility. How about getting on with it and being confident in getting the job done

    Kerry, in a joint press conference in the capital Amman with his Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh, said that the United States is "working with Russia to resolve the conflict in Syria," pointing out that "what is happening in Syria has negative repercussions on the region as a whole."

  • @Mr. Kerry: Have you asked the Syrian people if they care about the Russians' interest on this issue? Likewise, what other Arabian Gulf states care about Russia's involvement. Is this another example of the US capitulating to the Russians?

  • @Mr. Kerry: What is going on in Syria is certainly more than a "conflict!" This revolution started out as students and professionals peacefully protesting, and Assad turned on them with Security forces and Shabiha. The People of Syria took up arms against Assad for self-preservation. Assad has been committing genocide in Syria for over two years, barraging areas such as Homs and Baba Amr nonstop from the beginning. People in these areas are trapped with no way out, and humanitarian aid has no way in.

    For his part, Nasser Judeh considered that resolving the Syrian crisis is a "Jordanian interest," stressing the need for "a political solution."

  • In a speech to parliament on 3 November, King Abdullah II said the presence of 600,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan has put "enormous pressure" on his country's infrastructure.

  • Last month, the minister of planning said the Jordanian government had spent US$1.7 billion in responding to the influx of refugees and would need to invest $870 million more in the coming years on capital projects.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stressed support for Jordan in the context of dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis.

  • @Mr. Kerry: What does "stressed support for Jordan" look like? Jordan continues to feel the economic stress of hosting Syrian refugees, and this stress is not tied up neatly in a box. It is overflowing into the local economy. For instance, Syrian refugees are competing for jobs and because they are willing to work for low wages, the impact is hurting Jordanian families.
  • Saudi Arabia passed up a seat on the UN Security Council to protest how poorly the UN and the International community responded to the humanitarian disaster in Syria. The Saudis stated they expected a lot more direct assistance to the Syrian opposition. Over 120,000 primarily innocent civilians have been killed in the Syrian War.

    An estimated 6.5 million Syrians are displaced, but still in Syria. 52% of Syrians are under 17 years old. To make matters worse, Syria is currently facing starvation, an active polio virus that is spreading, and a harsh winter without adequate shelter or heat.

    Please help to raise awareness about the struggle of Syrian children to help put a stop to Assad's crimes against children. Visit stopassad.com to learn more.

    Kimberly Jones is a global nomad who writes about international issues, however, she has a special interest in Middle East and North Africa affairs. Read more stories by Kimberly Jones.

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