Despite significant involvement in Syria, Russia's ability to influence the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is more limited than it may appear.
With no discernible end or victor in sight, stateless violence and spheres of influence controlled by various factions may become the norm in Syria.
A wide coalition of Syrian rebel groups have announced that they will boycott political talks proposed by the United Nations. Aron Lund interviews Subhi al-Refai on these developments.
Previous peace talks have done more to shape political opposition movements and their relationship to the Syrian regime than to produce solutions to Syria's ongoing civil war. Upcoming talks will likely be more of the same.
The White House maintains that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has lost all legitimacy and has to go, but the U.S. security establishment is less convinced.
Kerry's recent comments about negotiating with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sparked controversy on both sides of the Atlantic. But what did he actually say?
Both the regime and the armed opposition still think they can win the war, but that’s an illusion. There can be no military victory for anyone.
Having already coaxed the Syrian regime into attending peace talks in Moscow at the end of January, the Kremlin finds itself unable to convince any significant opposition leader to participate.
By agreeing to the Moscow talks, the Syrian regime is portraying itself as more flexible than the opposition, at a time when the international community has lost patience with the intransigence on both sides.
The chances of success for the much-discussed Russian initiative to end the war in Syria seem slim at best—because Moscow has called a peace meeting with only one of the warring parties in attendance.
In recent months, there has been a flurry of diplomatic movement in the Syrian conflict, as Russia and Iran, the two main allies of Bashar al-Assad, are trying to seize the initiative and pave the way for a new political deal.
There are no indications that Assad is ready to let anyone not under his control join the new government in his third term as president. Genuine power sharing in Syria will remain as distant as ever.
Until Iran and all the other governments currently fanning the flames of war in Syria have accepted that no peace plan can work without a critical mass of armed actors on both sides, Syria’s slow collapse into Somalia-style anarchy will continue.
It is hard to imagine a solution to the Syrian crisis that does not involve Russia. However, despite the long-standing ties between the two countries, even Russia's most-qualified Syria expert may have little insight into the Syrian regime's inner workings.
If the conflict in Ukraine develops into a lasting standoff between the U.S.-EU camp and Russia, it may shift the dynamics in Syria in more direct ways as well.
Saleh Muslim Mohammed, co-chair of the largest Kurdish party in Syria, explains the PYD’s views on the conflict in Syria and the Rojava, or Western Kurdistan, project.
Attempts to resolve the conflict by focusing only on its regional dimension will be doomed to fail. Any credible peace effort requires negotiations that deal with the root problem and the demand for real political transition.
Despite the radicalization and despair that has set in on the opposition side, some combination of international pressure and real political opportunity could still have an influence on the insurgency’s ideological choices.
In the past three years, Russian influence in Syria has swelled dramatically and Moscow has acquired a new hand to play in regional politics.
Most of Syria’s large rebel groups have explicitly distanced themselves from the Geneva talks.