If a third Syrian–Syrian meeting is to be held in Geneva—whether over the next few months months or years from now—the likelihood is that it would end like its predecessors did in June 2012 and January and February 2014.
I’m sorry, but there is no escaping this apology. Serious peace negotiations could certainly stop wars between big players, because they are in control of their own decisions. These big players also doubtlessly have the ability to stop the infighting between small players, but this will only happen when those sitting behind the scenes decide that the time has come to blow the whistle on this bloody game.
No—and I say this plainly—I do not mean to escape to the safe haven of conspiracy theories where blame can be apportioned to all parties except oneself. What I mean to do is remind everybody of the reality which states that the small players can only play according to the rules of the game imposed by the big players. Is that not the nature of things at home? Yes. Does the disruption of this status quo create a failure that strikes at the heart of family relations, and could cause familial breakdown? Yes. So why should we be surprised by what is happening, when these big players are disrupting the balances around them, tipping the scales in favor of one side or the other according to their mood? These small players are first advised and then warned, and if they still fail to heed the big players, are punished. Isn’t this the natural order of things?
Yes, the Taif Agreement of September 30, 1989, succeeded in ending the Lebanese infighting and conflict in Lebanon, but this was only agreed after 15 years of bloodshed and the cycle of revenge and counter-revenge. It was only after all this that the warlords accepted the principle of sitting down together at the negotiating table. Even then, pressure had to be applied from all four corners of the world to persuade the ditherers to agree, first to attend the talks, and later reach an agreement. This happened with the attendance of 62 out of 73 Members of Parliament; the most prominent absentees included Raymond Edde, Albert Moukheiber and Emil Rouhana Saqr.
While the Saudi effort should be appreciated, as well as the efforts of everyone who helped in the finalization of the Taif Agreement, it was later shown that the fires of hatred continued to burn, hidden behind false smiles and diplomatic protocol. When the chance came to unleash this hatred, it destroyed everything in its sight and, in fact, continues to do so. This fire will not stop until a number of issues are resolved in the region.
Everything we have said so far requires us to highlight the fundamental differences between the Lebanese peace talks in Taif and the Syrian ones in Geneva. Most prominently—and this is clear for all to see—the Lebanese war was not between opposition groups and a ruling government that had turned its artillery on its people. This was between militias that opposed each other and struggled over representational quotas in government institutions. Therefore, despite the inherent complications, it was possible to persuade the adversaries of the possibility of exiting the conflict.
The story regarding the Geneva peace talks is different. First, had the Assad regime seriously pursued a solution to the tragedy rather than escalated it, the issue would not have reached Geneva. But when the Syrian army left its barracks in order to bombard its own cities and villages, it was a call to start the war that runs on. Before the conflict reaches its end, whether through Geneva or elsewhere, doubtlessly a lot of blood will be shed.
In the meantime, there is no harm in the media discussing solutions and plans. Some test the possibilities of dividing the country, some swear by the geographic unity of Syria, and a third camp attempts to bridge the gap. All the while the killing fields expand, and the killing machine claims more lives, from hundreds to thousands to tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands.
The stench of death congests the nose, but what is the problem? The important thing is for the vicious cycle to continue to kill and terrorize while the space around it is filled with the bodies of the innocent. In the barren lands inside and outside Syria, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, with Lebanon alone hosting around 1 million Syrian refugees.
How have we allowed this to happen? Why was the Assad regime not stopped by the Tzar of Russia in the beginning? How is it possible that Syria’s borders were opened—and the regime is not blameless in this—to everyone who claimed a jihad which is not known under any law of Islam, destroying the land and shedding blood? After all that, how can they say there is a solution to be found in Geneva?
Moscow could have, and still could, put pressure on the Damascus regime, and on the rulers of Tehran, to reach an understanding facilitating a meeting with the opposition that would be recognized internationally.
As long as that pressure is not forthcoming, there is no point in the Geneva meetings, whatever their iteration; the logic of violence will remain the prevalent one, whatever the cost.