Tim is right in saying “there’s a lot of talking around Syria this month, but there’s even more fighting, and these two things are probably connected.”
Yes there has been a plethora of peace initiatives and political solutions thrown around by Tehran, Moscow, and the UN Special envoy for Syria Mr. Staffan De Mistura.
None of the initiatives or ideas call specifically and unequivocally for the removal of Assad as a pre-condition for any solution which is what the majority of the Syrian people and the opposition demand. The Iranian-Russian position can be summarised in one sentence: > “The West must work with Assad to fight ISIS or ISIL and he must stay in power to fulfill this function”.
On the 9th August Reuters reported that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the United States should cooperate with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to fight Islamic State and that this required an international coalition uniting all those for whom the jihadists are “a common enemy”. This is also the position of Iran.
However the Syrian people see ISIS/ISIL as a joint Assad-Iranian creation to divert attention from the Assad regime’s crimes. ((For more details see my article ttp://www.thewhatandthewhy.com/guest-writer-debunking-the-myth-that-assad-and-iran-are-enemies-of-isis/)) > By contrast the Saudi and Turkish positions are clear: Assad must go first.
Last week the Iran Daily newspaper lamented the fact that Russia and Iran’s “peace initiative” for Syria appears to have stalled, after a high-profile demand by Saudi Arabia that President Assad be removed from power. Russia and Iran have tried since late June to bring together the Saudis and the Assad regime in talks for a political resolution to the 4 1/2-year conflict.
The Saudis and most Syrians have rejected the Russian-Iranian efforts because they are focused on a formula that keeps the Assad’s regime intact with Bashar al Assad remaining in power.
The Syrian people have fought for more than 4 years to get rid of the regime, yet Moscow and Tehran want to force them to accept the leader who massacred tens of thousands of Syrians.
The meeting on 11th August in Moscow between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir ended in failure. Lavrov wants Assad to stay and Jubeir wants him to go. Therefore the Russian and Iranian “manoeuvres” which they call “peace initiatives” have floundered and there are no takers apart from the Assad regime itself. Meanwhile the United Nations lacklustre envoy Staffan de Mistura’s plan to stop the fighting has not worked. No one is listening. He is destined to give up in despair as did his predecessors Lakhdar Brahimi and Kofi Annan.
At any rate on 17th August the 15-member United Nations Security Council (UNSC) approved a statement outlining a peace plan for Syria. The text was drafted by the five permanent members, the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France, following a briefing by UN mediator Staffan de Mistura nearly three weeks ago. The text is vague and heavily watered down to appease Moscow and Iran, it refers to a Geneva Communique as a basis for political negotiations, but that communique was not supported by Tehran and Damascus.
The UNSC unanimously approved the lukewarm statement backing intensive preparatory talks on key issues to restore peace to Syria. The Communique calls for the establishment of a transitional governing body, with full executive powers and made up by members of the present government and the opposition and other groups, as part of agreed principles and guidelines for a Syrian-led political transition. It also calls for fighting terrorism and reconstruction of Syria but says nothing about the future of Assad.
Nehad Ismail is a London based Arab writer @nehadismail