The country's non-insurgent majority are the real losersby Claire Spencer / June 4, 2013 / Leave a comment
A week is a long time in the diplomatic efforts surrounding the Syrian conflict. Just when it looked as though key elements were coalescing towards convening a US-UK-Russia-sponsored conference to negotiate a way out of the political deadlock, events on the ground took over again. Rather than an aberration, “events” have in fact been a constant of what is better characterised as a game of diplomatic catch-up, in which the main players on the chessboard have been firmly rooted in Syria, and now the wider region, for over two years.
President Assad’s nearest neighbours and allies have kept pace and aligned their strategies and tactics accordingly, knowing that things change fast in a conflict zone as fragmented and complex as the struggle for Syria. The mystery is why it has taken so long for the alliance of western powers, ostensibly on the side of the beleaguered Syrian population, to wake up to just how far their own diplomatic game has strayed from the realities they are seeking to influence.
The sequence of developments at the end of May 2013 illustrated the diplomatic dilemma perfectly. No sooner had the divided European Union agreed to allow its embargo on supplying arms to Syrian rebels to lapse, than President Assad announced that Russia’s delivery of their much anticipated S-300 missile defence system was imminent, if not already underway. Only three weeks earlier, Prime Minister David Cameron, preceded by US Secretary of State John Kerry, had flown to Russia to gain President Putin’s assurances that sufficient common ground existed between them to bring different actors to the negotiating table as early as mid-June.
Did no one explore the potentially negative consequences of the EU rescinding its arms embargo on Russia’s continued military backing for Assad? Were assurances given then, only to be reconsidered in the light of the Israeli airstrikes on weapons stocks in Syria and indications that the UK is now considering supplying arms to rebel groups by August? Was there ever any doubt that Russia, together with Iran (and Hezbollah), would react negatively to any attempt to rebalance the strength of local forces in ways prejudicial to Assad’s regime?
The mid-June conference, if it takes place then or at all, now has a number of missing actors—but not the ones most expected.…