It takes two to tango, and it takes two to fight. It also takes two to stop fighting, and that’s the prospect awaiting Syria now. The latest news that the Syrian opposition has decided to make it two and join the Geneva II peace talks on Syria this week – along with a suspicious ceasefire proposal by the regime – are increasing the chances that a quasi-ceasefire just might be possible.
CNN has reported that the representatives of the Syrian opposition – the ones who voted anyway – were overwhelmingly in favor of attending the Geneva talks, which aim to progress towards a transitional government. But CNN also reported that around a third of the opposition didn’t even vote. The Syrian regime, however, seems to be open to reaching a localized ceasefire in the devastated city of Aleppo, and the combination of that prospect with the Geneva talks raises the chances of at least a partial ceasefire.CNN reported that the Syrian regime has presented the Aleppo ceasefire proposal to their allies the Russians. While the Russians are no friends to the Syrian opposition, they serve as a sort of messenger to the US and Europe, who in turns can convince the opposition. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem was quoted as saying the Russians can “tell us the time and the date, the hour, and we will commit ourselves to these arrangements [in Aleppo] — if he has enough guarantees that the other side will accept and commit themselves as well.”
While a ceasefire that didn’t knock out Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad from power was always a nonstarter for the opposition, the war has turned decidedly sour for them. The opposition and their allies in the West may just be desperate enough to make this happen.
Assad is going nowhere. But maybe, just maybe, a temporary ceasefire in some select cities where the regime is winning could lead to some level of quiet. Obviously this helps the regime stay in power, but it may be the best choice for now.
The crucial crisis driving this reality is that according to news reports, including from CNN, there is a huge threat posed by Islamist radicals in Syria. Al-Qaeda allies and others are fighting not only the regime, but the opposition as well. The opposition may be willing to rest its fight with the regime to try and concentrate on retaking territory from the terrorists.
Will Geneva do that? Maybe not. But it’s a chance to talk, and right now, that may be the best chance yet. Allowing a brutal dictator to stay in power is no one’s best case scenario. But a temporary halt to the killing is the best we can hope for right now.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, January 19, 2014)