World Politics Review: “Why Diplomatic Talks to End Syria’s Civil War Will Fail—Again”

New from me on World Politics Review:

Everyone is currently very excited about negotiations between Syria’s regime and opposition to resolve the country’s brutal war. But maybe don’t be? Because talks aren’t going to work, come on.

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One Response to World Politics Review: “Why Diplomatic Talks to End Syria’s Civil War Will Fail—Again”

  1. RS says:

    You write, “Certainly in northern Syria, no other factions are able or willing to restrain Nusra, which will continue to fight the Assad regime.” True, but that’s because all of these factions (rightly) see Assad (and in some locations, ISIS) as enemy #1. It’s not inconceivable that they would change their minds about who enemy #1 is if barrel bombing and other indiscriminate attacks came to an end in their areas. This isn’t to suggest that the current Vienna framework will work, but if it fails it won’t primarily because Syrians don’t want it to work but because the outside powers that are backing the declining regime and the bloodied rebels aren’t willing to push their proxies to make the hard choices necessary to make the flawed Vienna process work (or at least not fail so badly).

    You also write, “International backers of both sides are unlikely to seriously push for de-escalation.” But haven’t shipments of TOW missiles fallen dramatically since their spike in October 2014? The evidence seems to indicate that rebel-backing states have de-escalated.

    And no, Russia is not pushing for an outright military victory. Rather, they are concentrating on expelling the rebels from Latakkia, strangling rebel pockets in places like Homs and Damascus governates, and eventually recapture Aleppo city and the surrounding area in time for whatever peace deal happens in the years to come.

    The main barrier to peace isn’t Syrians on either side but Russia and Iran whose sway over Damascus has grown without interruption from roughly 2012 onward as the regime has grown ever-more dependent on them since being unable to crush the uprising. Iran and Russia quickly and painlessly compelled Assad to surrender his strategic deterrent against Israel — chemical weapons — in the space of a week or less. So far, they and the regime are grabbing what they can as a political settlement takes shape so that they can negotiate from a position of strength at Vienna or anywhere else.

    The last hair I’ll split here is about the YPG, which is the only force whose strength is growing the longer the war lasts and its enemies/competitors (regime, FSA, Islamic Front, AQ, ISIS) exhaust themselves destroying each other. The war will continue to escalate at the same time that diplomatic efforts intensify just as they did in Viet-Nam. It took roughly 5 years of talking while fighting to get a peace deal in Paris and I suspect we are looking at similar timetables here (unless Russia, the key power in Vienna, decides to speed up the pace of events and wrap things up sooner).

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