The Geneva II peace talks are set to commence a week from today, and observers inside and outside the country see little cause for optimism. Syria’s political opposition remains deeply divided over whether to participate in the conference, as the Syrian National Coalition, one of the main blocs within the Syrian Opposition Coalition, has declared that it will not attend.
The international community is split over the issue of Iran’s attendance, with Washington opposing Tehran’s presence and Russia and the United Nations insisting that Iran must be a party to any settlement. Meanwhile, dynamics on the ground remain far removed from the diplomatic maneuvering, with the Islamic Front-a coalition of seven hardline Islamist factions, with an avowed disinterest in the Geneva talks-emerging as arguably the most potent opposition force within Syria.
“As soon as you invest in a diplomatic process, the costs of failure become very real,” says Mona Yacoubian, senior advisor for the Stimson Center’s Middle East program in Washington DC. The stakes are high for the conference: Paving the way for a transitional body to govern Syria and stopping the fighting, principles the stakeholders cannot come to agreement on ahead of the conference.
This interview originally appeared on the Syria Direct website on January 16, 2014.
Photo by unisgeneva via Flicker.