Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Syria peace plan that wasn't

The Security council has adopted resolution 2254, that is presented as a peace plan. The BBC summarized it as follows:
- Calls for ceasefire and formal talks on a political transition to start in early January
- Groups seen as "terrorist", including Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, are excluded
- "Offensive and defensive actions" against such groups - a reference to air strikes by US-led coalition and Russia - to continue
- UN chief Ban Ki-moon to report by 18 January on how to monitor ceasefire
- "Credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance" to be established within six months
- "Free and fair elections" under UN supervision to be held within 18 months
- Political transition should be Syrian-led

It is a lot of hot air that very likely won't produce any result.

First of all the plan is not realistic:
- there is no strict separation between Islamic State, Al-Nusra and the rest. They often fight together against the government and fighters regularly switch from one group to another.
- as al-Nusra and ISIS are part of the rebel groups in many areas it will be impossible to maintain an armistice there.
- more than half the Syrian rebels subscribe to an Islamist extremist ideology. If one group disappears they will just join another group.
- "free and fair elections" is a joke in a climate were there are many fighting groups that don't believe in democracy. Neither do they believe in tolerance and equal rights for other groups that is among the foundations without which democracy is impossible. There is probably a majority of the Syrians who are democratically minded, but in the present power distribution they would lose the fight for control and democracy would be short-lived.
- "Credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance" sounds good. Unfortunately that assumes also an inclusive attitude from the opposition. Yet that is definitely absent among much of the armed opposition. If Syria had a law that prevents sectarian parties to participate in elections - as some countries have - almost none of the opposition groups would be allowed to participate.

And then there is the question whether all parties voted for this resolution in good faith:
- A look at Ukraine learns that the US has accepted there similar peace plans and that nothing ever came of it. The typical pattern is that the US becomes serious about peace plans when the side that it is supporting is losing and is in danger of breaking down. After the peace plan is adopted the accompanying armistice is used to rearm and retrain that side until it is strong enough to attack again. In the meantime the peace negotiations lead nowhere. The US supported side ignores the concessions it did in the peace plan and makes demands that it knows are unacceptable for the other side. When it resumes hostilities the US government is quiet or tries to blame the other side. The Western press and the other Western governments mostly slavishly follow suit.
- It is already clear that the US and the parties it supports will - once negotiations start - again demand the immediate departure of Assad. So a compromise is impossible.
- So the most likely goal of the circus is to put a brake on the Russian attacks against the "moderate" opposition.

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