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Is Syrian ‘Peace’ Conference Laying the Foundation for War?

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Posted on Jan 31, 2014

Ali Photography (CC BY-ND 2.0)

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Truthout

This piece first appeared at Truthout.

The Geneva II conference which claims to be seeking to end the war in Syria seems designed to fail and instead to provide an excuse for military intervention by the United States and its allies.  Human rights activist, Ajamu Baraka, describes the negotiations as an ‘Orwellian subterfuge’ designed to provide justification for war and a lot of facts support his view.

The negotiations are destined to fail because of the way they have been set-up and the preconditions of the United States and its allies in the Syrian opposition demanding that President Bashar al-Assad agree to leave government before negotiations go forward.

The set-up for failure begins with the limited participation. The rigged nature of the negotiations was demonstrated when the UN had to rescind an invitation to Iran to participate at the demand of the United States and the Syrian opposition group. Iran is a close ally of Syria and keeping them out of the negotiations is an effort to weaken and isolate Syria. It is an indication of a desire by the United States for a pre-ordained conclusion rather than a fair negotiation between the parties.

The exclusion of Syrian civil society from these negotiations, beyond the militant fighters, is especially egregious.  Many of these groups were working for transformation of Syria before the terrorism and war began.  One example is the exclusion of woman, although women from across Syria have been meeting and put together a Syrian Women’s Charter for Peace, their request to be included in the talks has been denied. Women and children comprise the majority of the millions who have been internally displaced or forced to flee the country. And they have suffered in horrible ways.

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Only one opposition group is included, the Syrian National Coalition, one favored by the United States but rejected by 13 key rebel groups in Syria. There are scores of others involved in the bloodshed in Syria, but these on-the-ground fighters are not included.  How can peace, even a partial peace like a cease-fire, be negotiated if those involved in the fighting are not participating?

In fact, an agreement by the participants to stop fighting would entrap Assad. Groups not included in the negotiations will continue to fight and Assad will respond. When Assad responds to attacks, he will be accused of violating the peace agreement. This will provide an excuse for outside military intervention. The U.S. and its allies will claim: ‘Assad is violating the peace agreement; there is no other choice than to enforce the agreement with military force.’

The second and most important problem with the negotiations is the precondition of the United States and the Syrian National Coalition that Assad must agree to step down before negotiations can begin.  The U.S. and its allies falsely claim that the removal of Assad has already been agreed to the “Geneva communiqué” signed by Syria’s ally, Russia.  As Shamus Cooke points out, the communiqué does indeed call for a negotiated political transition, but nowhere does it state that such a transition must exclude Assad.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry kicked off the conference by demanding the removal of President Bashar al-Assad from power. And, this has become the central issue in the discussions so far, leading to a stalemate. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, accused the U.S. and its Middle East allies, particularly Turkey and Saudi Arabia, of supporting terrorist groups seeking to destabilize Syria and working to put forward their own plans for a new government. The Syrians put forward their own plan that would begin with ridding the nation of foreign terrorists. They argue it is up to the Syrian people to decide who their leaders are and what type of government they want.

The kick-off of the conference coincided with a propaganda campaign. A report funded by Qatar claimed the Assad government had tortured and killed 11,000 prisoners. There has been a history of torture in Syria; in fact, the United States sent people to be tortured in Syria as part of its rendition program, so on its face the claim does not seem far-fetched. But did they prove the case?


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