The Annan plan is being rejected by the Syrian National Council because it does not explicitly call for Assad's ouster. The U.S. maintains that the political transition will nevertheless necessitate this. Russia is playing a greater role in the process which may alleviate the stalemate. Syrian and Turkish air forces patrol the border.
Originally posted 7/1/12:
China just got their exemption from the US imposed sanctions on Iran. Turkey also has received a waiver. Expect talks to move quickly as Iran reacts to the sanctions. The possibility of Iran not backing down is demonstrated by the fact of Saudi Arabia re-opening its pipeline to Iraq in an effort to circumvent the Strait of Hormuz. The United Arab emirates is nearing completion of a pipeline with a similar design.
The exclusion of Iran and Saudi Arabia works to the advantage of the US in that it prevents a basis or means for positive diplomatic relations to emerge between those two nations. Iran has invited Saudi Arabia to the meeting of non-aligned powers (yes, the movement started during the Cold War). Iran will have a meeting, held in Istanbul, on July 3 with techinical experts from other nations. Sec. of State Clinton has warned Iran to take action to avoid further sanctions. Republicans in the US Congress are seizing on the waiver granted to China as an opportunity to toughen the provisions of the NDAA, which is the bill containing the sanctions.
Certainly, it is impossible for Syria to return to its previous state. Saudi Arabia may have been angered by US acceptance of the Egyptian Arab Spring, but is willing to back an insurgency against another Sunni regime. If the outcome of the Swiss talks is merely Assad's removal, what assurances will the rebels have of stability which will prevent a military coup? Because in Egypt the military was a participant in the Arab Spring, Syria differs in that the military may not be a guarantor of stability in a post-revolutionary setting. A regional-based approach would unite the oil exporting nations in a scheme to ensure regional political stability, including in Syria where a return to peace may mean a long-term political process of national reconciliation.
Originally posted 6/30/12
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/world/middleeast/activists-report-deadliest-day-in-syria-conflict.html?_r=1&ref=syria This article discusses the death toll as the conflict in Syria drags on, while just about everybody but the Syrians are in Switzerland discussing the future of Syria. The US continues to insist that Assad cannot participate, but has made no commitments to removing him from power. When pushed for a rationale behind this condition that talks not include Assad, the British Foreign Minister William Hague gives the reason that "It's been always been our view, of course, that a stable future for Syria, a real political process, means Assad leaving power." http://worldnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/06/30/12494159-russia-china-urged-to-act-over-syria-after-185-reportedly-die-in-one-days-shelling?lite A real political process may thus only emerge if Russia and China agree that Assad has violated human rights, etc. to an extent that he must be excluded. At such a point, the "political process" Hague refers to would no doubt require further talks over which western powers will lead the charge to rescue the Syrians from the carnage, via the creation of "humanitarian corridors" and "no-fly zones" backed by UN sanctions and necessitating the targetting of Assad as a military target Gaddhafi-style.
To be fair, it is not simply a matter of the west insisting that Assad not have a role in the talks. Clearly, there is a sizeable faction, perhaps the majority, within the revolutionary movement which also insists on Assad's removal from power; they must know that this is impossible without outside military assistance.
As undesireable as it may be to include Assad in the talks, a simple fact remains: Assad is holding back. The state news agency has described the actions of the Syrian military as "surgical". The losses endured by the military are in sacrifice for the desire of Assad to reestablish ties with the outside world should he not be removed from power immediately. If the talks in Switzerland result in a demand for his removal, he will have no reason to hold back. If this outcome appears likely, Assad will most likely strike the rebels in Turkish territory, and it will be then that the rest of the world must decide whether to follow the course which our leaders have chosen for us.
Originally posted 6/29/12:
Iran and Saudi Arabia are both excluded from Annan's new talks. Russia and the U.S. are included, but while a transition without Assad will be discussed Russia maintains that any plan for removing Assad is unacceptable. Sec. of State Clinton will meet with her counterpart Lavrov. Russia has not yet delivered the helicopters in question, nor other military supplies (jets, missiles) purchased by Syria after Russia forgave Syrian debt upon condition that Syria enter these contracts.
Some members of the Syrian oppossition may be excluded from the talks, as well as Assad's government, and the Syrian National Council (including the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood) have stated they will boycott any result that includes Assad staying in power. Civilian oppossition to Assad's regime is reportedly at odds with the SNC insofar as the former do not call for outside assistance, especially a no-fly zone. This faction includes the National Coordination Committee "made up of 13 political parties including some leftist forces, and independent mainly secular activists." (Phyllis Bennis, "Can We Stop a Civil War in Syria?, June 28 2012)
The downing of a Turkish fighter jet by Syria is of major interest to the Turkish press, government and people, causing internal contention between the government and its political oppossition. Syria's rather conciliatory statements are interpreted by some as masking a provokation, and as an extention of Russia's falling out with Turkey over the regime change question. Turkey has reinforced its border and the ongoing fighting includes Syria's operation in border towns.
One of the better analyses, in that it points out the absurdity of defining "diplomacy" merely as an alternative to military policy, is that of Dr Alia Brahimi. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/06/2012626105942801314.html
The Assad regime's principal local ally, Hezbollah, has taken a similarly problematic stance on the violence in Syria. For years Hezbollah built up its credibility on the Arab street, beyond its social base among the Shia community in Lebanon, by championing the rights of the oppressed. In fact, Hezbollah finds itself in bed with the Assad regime in the first place because of their combined "axis of resistance", together with Iran, against Israeli imperialism. Nasrallah himself has championed an Arab nationalist narrative built around the notion of solidarity and premised upon inalienable Islamic and human rights. His continued support for the (Shia) Assad regime dramatically undercuts the moral and political foundations of Hezbollah's ideological framework and dilutes the group's raison d'etre to its sectarian core. No wonder Hezbollah has dramatically toned down its pro-Syrian rhetoric!
Members of the Palestinian Liberation army have been "kidnapped" by the Free Syrian Army. Ehud Barak says "Assad will fall, the forces of the opposition control significant parts of Syria. But the longer it takes, the more difficult it will be to stabilise the situation." (Mossad accused after Hamas member killed in Syria, BEIRUT- Agence France-Presse June/28/2012
As events unfold, the discourse more and more revolves around universal or common views of force and right, applied according to different apprisals of the propriety and advisability of action by parties internal and external to the theatre of operations (that is, including apprisals by different parties of the possibility and reality of outside participation in the conflict between the Syrian government and Syrian citizens in revolt). Is Iran truly interested in Syria per-se, or can they be eliminated as a player by assuaging their concerns that the Syria conflict is being used by the US as a means toward fulfilliing foreign policy goals related to Iran? The Israel-Palestine conflict no longer forms a basis for pan-Arab or pan-Islamic political alliances. The promise of the "Arab Spring" is for a new future for the people of the middle-east, one not defined by the conflicts of the Cold War (I or II) but by political and economic autonomy. Iran has characterized the Arab Spring as echoing the Islamic Revolution. Others see the CIA behind the Muslim Brotherhood. Others see a people throwing off the yoke of imperialism, like the Vietnamese before them, from whatever source it emanates, with all parties struggling by various means to protect their interests, forming legal and illegal, political and business, overt and secret relationships and schemes of action, reacting to events as they happen.
Given the complexity of the situation it is improper for any faction outside Syria to unilaterally demand the removal of Assad as a precondition for diplomacy which will bring an end to the bloodshed. Such a position, stemming from an attitude contrary to Obama's campaign pledge to use diplomacy rather than brute military force, can only be seen as a desperate bid for power as likely to produce results disasterous for the Syrian people including the opposite result of its stated intent, that is resulting in Assad's remaining in power rather than being removed from power. If power is the goal of such outside actors (Clinton, Hollande), they may come to the conclusion that Assad's remaining in power is more desireable than the success of a revolution they cannot control. This form of diplomacy is contrary to the democratic principles touted by these players, as it was when Hamas was voted into power by the Palestinian people due to the corruption within the PLO (including shopping sprees, etc. in Paris).
Syria, like Libya and Poland, by the way, is one of the countries to which the U.S. has sent people to be tortured during interrogation.