Except for the unanimous acknowledgment that the situation is worsening every day, there is little agreement on Syria. And yet peace is expected to descend on this unfortunate land only on the wings of “mutual consent”. The new plan for Syria, envisaged in Geneva last Saturday by the ‘contact group’ brought together by the Herculean efforts of the United Nations-Arab League peace envoy, Kofi Annan, has these words as its crux. But these also formed the crux of Mr Annan’s earlier peace initiative that was to start with a ceasefire to which the Bashar al-Assad regime and the rebels had apparently agreed. No one relinquished arms because there was, and there could be, no mutual agreement on its purpose. While the Assad regime believes that it is ruthless violence alone that can assure its survival, the rebel groups believe it is their offensive strategy that alone can ensure the overthrow of the despot. Mr Annan’s six-point plan thus failed to get off the ground. The same fate awaits the transitional plan for Syria, which has at its heart the rather naive belief that it is possible for the opposing forces in Syria, despite their contradictory interests, to agree mutually to a peaceful political transition. Not for once did the United States of America believe that the inclusion of Mr al-Assad or smembers of his regime in the transitional body, an idea pushed into the final draft by Russia, would be mutually agreeable. Yet, that did not stop it from putting its signature on what is evidently a stillborn plan. For some reason, the appearance of an agreement on Syria appears to be more important than Syria itself.
While foreign powers keep up their appearances, dangerous changes are taking place on the ground. This is evident from the increased violence and now the dogged insistence on armed foreign intervention by prominent rebel groups such as the Free Syrian Army as the only principle of agreement with other Opposition groups. Not surprisingly, the Cairo meet of the exiled rebel groupings have failed to produce a united front of the Opposition. The fracture will increase as Turkey and some of the Gulf nations such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia try to bypass the political impasse among the international powers by increasing the flow of funds and arms to rebel groups in their bid to weaken the Assad regime, which continues to receive arms supplies from Russia and Iran. Meanwhile, peace will slip away by mutual disagreement.