They just got a different tool to use than we do: They kill innocent lives to achieve objectives. That's what they do. And they're good. They get on the TV screens and they get people to ask questions about, well, you know, this, that or the other. I mean, they're able to kind of say to people: Don't come and bother us, because we will kill you. Bush - Joint News Conference with Blair - 28 July '06

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Syria: Salafi jihadists the winners in Geneva

The US, France, and Gulf States successfully pressured Ban Ki-Moon into rescinding Iran's invitation to Geneva II ostensibly because of Iran's unwillingness to sign up to the sacred principles agreed at Geneva I - outlined in the Geneva communiqué. 

Whilst it suited the US,  Saudi Arabia - and consequently France -  that Iran didn't attend, there is no reason to think that Iran's presence could possibly have made matters worse.  It would be easier to argue the reverse, recognising Iranian influence over both Hezbollah and the Assad government. The key difference between Iran and the SNC is that the former has weight, whilst the latter doesn't.

On the ground Bashar al-Assad is primarily at war with Salafi jihadists, many of whom would sooner slaughter minorities than share power with them.  They have no interest in pluralism, democracy, or human rights beyond those offered by an unforgiving interpretation of Sharia law. What is more, neither are they interested in 'an immediate cessation of violence in all its forms' - requirement number one in the Geneva communiqué. It's not in their playbook. 

The SNC's political demands are out of proportion with their military accomplishments. Their inability to speak for the majority of fighters opposed to Assad, or deliver a cessation in violence,  makes the road forward a difficult one. Without doubt further compromise from all sides at the table is called for. The SNC, logically, is the party that needs to compromise most of all. Whether Saudi Arabia likes it or not. And then when they reach some sort of tentative deal there's the real issue of  AQ, its affiliates and like-minded groups to deal with.