02/17/2014, 00.00
SYRIA - UNITED NATIONS - IRAN

Blame game following Geneva II failure, thinking about Iran

Paul Dakiki
The United States, Britain, France, and Germany blame Syria for stonewalling. Now fighting is expected to intensify. The Free Syrian Army replaces its chief. Syria has become the main destination for international jihadists. Britain is now worried about returning fighters. Iran could be a good partner for peace in the Middle East.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - A few days after peace talks on Syria (Geneva II) ended without results, the international blame-game has begun. Almost as one, the West blames Assad and the Syrian government for the impasse. However, there is enough blame to go around for everyone, including the West, which had vetoed the participation of an important player like Iran.

After three weeks of talks, UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (pictured) closed the second round last Saturday without setting a date, apologising to the Syrian people "who had great hopes."

The first week of talks had led to a small but important result when government and opposition representatives met in the same room to talk.

But in the second week, everyone stuck to their guns, claiming that their priority should take centre stage.

For Syrian officials, the fight against terrorism came first, and for the Syrian regime, the term applies to all the opposition to the Assad regime. For opposition representatives, Bashar is Syria's "first terrorist".

In his attempt at mediation, Brahimi accepted both views. However, his efforts proved unsuccessful because Syria saw the talks as leading to regime change whilst rebels accused Damascus of not wanting to change anything.

Yesterday and today, the United States, Britain, Germany, and France accused Syria of not being interested in the talks, of stonewalling and trying to consolidate its power.

Various analysts note that the Syrian regime's intransigence is also due to its military victories on the ground. Since talks began, rebels have had to leave Homs during a humanitarian operation. They were also militarily driven out of Yarmouk, near Damascus, as well as from areas on the outskirts of Aleppo.

For its part, the opposition appears to be further weakening. Today, news reports say that the head of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the secular opposition to the regime, was changed because of difficulties in the Syrian revolution. Abd al-Ilah al-Bashir replaces Brig Gen Salim Idris as chief-of-staff of the FSA's Supreme Military Council because of its recent failures.

The FSA's position has been further weakened by fighting with Islamist insurgents. The latter came together last year as a fight Islamic Front for Jihad aiming at setting up an Islamic state in Syria. For this reason, they have rejected the FSA and have refused to participate in the Geneva talks.

In an ironic twist, all members of the opposition delegation in Geneva are listed as "terrorists."

In a statement, the Syrian Justice Ministry included their names in a terror list, noting that all their assets in Syria were seized and their bank accounts frozen.

Syrian government delegate Bashar Jaafari explained that the list, which includes 1,500 names, was drafted months before talks started.

Analysts now expect military operations to intensify, causing greater suffering in the population.

In three years of civil war, at least 140,000 people have been killed.

In the coming days, Lakhdar Brahimi will report to the UN secretary-general. He also hopes to meet with Geneva II's two main sponsors, namely US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Meanwhile, the international community is increasingly concerned that Syria has become the main destination for jihadists from scores of countries, including the West.

British Minister of State for Immigration James Brokenshire acknowledged yesterday that British fighters returning from Syria are "a big problem" because of their connection to terrorism.

By contrast, the fight against growing terrorism in Syria could prompt the international community to change its attitude towards Iran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said that he was willing to fight (Sunni) terrorists, curb the flow of weapons that is fuelling the Syrian war, and convince all the parties to be part of a political solution.

With Saudi backing, the United States vetoed Iranian participation in Geneva II talks.

This week, talks on Iran's nuclear programme are set to start in Vienna. If they succeed, they could end sanctions against Tehran and help the Islamic Republic become a partner for peace in the Middle East.

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Geneva II: government and opposition clash over Bashar al-Assad's fate
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