Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 24, 2014

Syria: The Road to Geneva

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 6:02 pm

(A guest post by Brian S.)

Syria: The Road to Geneva

Posted by ⋅ January 20, 2014

The suspense over the holding of the Geneva II Conference on Syria appeared to have finally ended on 18 January with the decision of the principal opposition group – the Syrian National Coalition (SNCo)– to attend, but it has now re-emerged with their threat to withdraw if Iran is invited to the proceedings.

However I don’t think there is as much real uncertainty as the press coverage implies. The UN had already taken out insurance on the event by inviting a wide range of states to participate– a total of 32 (33 with Iran) – effectively turning it into an international conference on Syria, rather than a purely bilateral peace negotiation. (The first day will involve all the participating delegations in a preliminary discussion in Montreux, with bilateral negotiations mediated by Brahimi starting on the 24th in Geneva).That means that several hundred upper class flights and 5-star hotel rooms have been booked in Geneva, virtually ensuring that some sort of international deliberation on Syria will commence on 22 January.

Moreover the US and the “Friends of Syria” are putting intense pressure on the SNCo to attend, while at the same time Russia has been doing its best to woo them, given the limitations of its being betrothed to the Asad regime. The drawn-out hesitations of the SNCO are thus conditioned more by its need to reassure various forces back home than expressing any real uncertainty about its eventual participation.

So – what are the intentions of the main players at Geneva II and what, if anything can we expect to emerge from it.? And how should the international movement of Solidarity with the Syrian revolution be responding?

The Godfathers – the US and Russia

The United States and Russia share a common concern to prevent the destabilisation of a complex and inter-twined region and to contain the development of international “terrorist” forces. The US’s parochial obsession with any whiff  of “al-Qaeda (9/11 casts a long and deep shadow) has prevented it from adopting a consistent strategy towards the Syrian conflict and limited its support for the anti-Asad forces to either tokenistic light weaponry or indirect assistance via partners such as Saudi Arabia. Russia, of course, has the additional motivation of wanting to support an ally that plays an important role in preserving its influence in an important geo-strategic region and counter-balancing US global hegemony.

What this means is that both have a real interest in seeing Geneva II succeed in producing some kind of negotiated resolution of the conflict, and are more concerned with order and stability than with meeting the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people. This is reflected in the parameters for the negotiations inherited from Geneva I (see below).

full: http://magpie68.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/21/


  1. Dear Magpie,

    You commented: “The United States and Russia share a common concern to prevent the destabilisation of a complex and inter-twined region.”
    Did you consider the possibility, based on the experience in Libya, that the US may have an interest in destabilizing those regimes like Syria that you correctly call “counter-balancing US global hegemony”?

    In 1996, even while a democrat was in office, the Clean Break document was produced encouraging a proxy war in Syria, which is what we see now.


    Comment by H. Smith — January 24, 2014 @ 7:38 pm

  2. Hello H. Different place – same message. You really need to wean yourself off these conspiracy theories – they’ll make you go blind. You quote “Clean Break” but appear not to have read it. First its a policy document drawn up for Israel, not the US (although its true some influential US neo-cons were associated with it). Second, it was written at a time when Syria had a major military presence in Lebanon; it wasn’t proposing regime changeor political destabilisation in Syria but harassing military operations across the Syrian-Lebanese border: “paralleling Syria’s behavior by establishing the precedent that Syrian territory is not immune to attacks emanating from Lebanon by Israeli proxy forces; striking Syrian military targets in Lebanon, and should that prove insufficient, striking at select targets in Syria proper. ”
    Note the reference is to ISRAELI proxy forces – presumably the Phalangists or other Israeli allies. So there is virtually no parallel between this scenario and the current situation (except in the fevered imaginations of the conspiracy theorists.)
    The idea that current US policy in the region is following a plan drawn up by some over-enthusiastic neo-cons 17 years ago is nonsensical. You may have heard of two rather important events – wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – which were influenced by these sort of fantasies, but turned into debacles which no sane state could ignore in the formulation of its policies. I refer you back to your previous discussions with Louis for an account of the US’s actual policy with regard to Asad.

    Comment by magpie68 — January 25, 2014 @ 12:19 pm

  3. Magpie,

    I do not dispute your facts, except in some minor ways- I do think Clean Break was intended for the US to follow as well, because of the close relationship between the countries and the fact that the authors were in America, and as you correctly said, are influential.

    You are also correct that Afghanistan and Iraq were debacles, however they did accomplish some objective- one of the longterm goals of those behind Clean Break has been to breakup the oppositional Arab states like Iraq into smaller, weaker, sectarian entities which thereby provide less resistance. It is a kind of divide and conquer strategy to play the Muslim states against eachother.

    While you rightly say that no sane state should ignore the debacles of Iraq and Afghanistan, besides doubts about how reasonable the state is, it appears that chaotic regime change was imposed once more in Libya in accordance with preset goals. The fall of Libya itself was mentioned by Gen. Wesley Clark as predicted, along with that of Syria.

    While I question how intensely the US wants Assad gone based on your discussion of cooperation about extremists, I do have to say that all things considered it does look like the Turkish proxy war is desired and supported by the forces that be, Turkey and the Saudis also being key allies.

    The strength with which Obama proposed direct intervention – despite the strong successful opposition to intervention by many Americans, as well as McCain’s visit to Syria and funding of opposition groups are further indications of policy in this regards.

    Take care.

    Comment by H. Smith — January 25, 2014 @ 8:39 pm

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