President Bashar al-Assad sent a delegation to Geneva II composed largely of veteran diplomats, politicians, and media specialists. According to the Syrian president, they are going to the talks in order to discuss the best way to “fight terrorism” in Syria.
Much hinges on how Russia and Iran are approached by the Friends of Syria group, which will have to rethink their approach to opposition representation at negotiations and, more importantly, how a transitional process in Syria will unfold in practice.
The United States and Russia should present Syrians of all persuasions with a practical template against which to measure both the regime’s and the opposition’s willingness to find a genuine political solution.
The United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria had a weak mandate, followed passive rules of engagement, and operated within a political six-point plan that was challenging to translate to field realities.
Syrian Kurds fear that the Kurdish issue will be ignored in the Geneva II Syrian peace conference, despite the fact that Kurds control a significant part of northern Syria, including many oil-producing areas.
On political matters, just as in religious affairs, the Islamic Front has staked out a hawkish position. Its officials say that they are firmly opposed to any peace deal with the regime and seem unwilling to hold talks even on minor matters.
Isolating Iran from the Syria peace talks is no longer a realistic option.
Raja al-Nasser is a leading member of the Democratic Arab Socialist Union, a leftist-nationalist opposition party that has long defended the Baath Party’s foreign policy, but also opposes the autocratic rule of Syria’s long-ruling Assad family.
While he is routinely billed as an “opposition leader” in Syrian, Iranian, and Russian media, Qadri Jamil has always hovered on the outskirts of regime politics.
In a statement, a group of nineteen Syrian rebel factions jointly condemned the planned Geneva II conference as an “episode in the chain of conspiracies” against their revolution.
A preliminary date has been set for the Geneva II negotiations and the Syrian opposition is expected to sit down with representatives from Bashar al-Assad’s regime to discuss the prospect of a unity government. But note the word ”preliminary.”