Mona Yacoubian: ‘Jihadists have a number of cards to play to undermine a diplomatic solution’
Geneva II peace talks are set to commence January 22, and observers
inside and outside the country see little cause for optimism. Events on
the ground continue to outpace diplomatic maneuvering, particularly 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. The Front strongly opposes the
Geneva process, with the organization’s military chief Zahran Alloush suggesting that conference participants from both the regime and opposition could be placed on a “wanted list” for targeting.
is senior advisor for the Stimson Center’s Middle East program, where
her work focuses on US policy toward the Arab transitions, with a
particular focus on Syria.
In the second of a two-part interview, Yacoubian tells Syria Direct’s Alex Simon
that the Geneva process-already a long-shot proposition-will likely be
overshadowed by the extent to which “dynamics on the ground really have a
life of their own.” One example, she says, is an emerging war-based
economy that those benefiting from the chaos-among them increasingly
powerful jihadist elements-will not relinquish easily: “There are actors
who are vested in the perpetuation of the conflict.” Read part one of
the interview here.
Let’s say Geneva II is held, and somewhere down the road a diplomatic
solution is reached. To what extent do you think that agreement could
actually be implemented inside the country?
should have no illusions that, even with a diplomatic solution, it’s
going to take some time before there’s real change on the ground. We’ve
seen over and over again how forces on the ground inside Syria evolve
rapidly and independently. That’s what’s scary about Syria, particularly
how we’re seeing this proliferation of extremist groups, the influx of
foreign fighters-all of these dynamics on the ground really have a life
of their own. That said, I would argue that, if we were to have a
scenario with the US and key regional powers agreeing that there’s a
shared interest in beginning to tamp down the violence, that can have a
de-escalating impact; it’s going to be gradual, but nonetheless it’s
To read part two of the interview, click here.