The Syrian opposition has stymied the UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva. Having refused a dialogue with the delegation of the Syria Arab Republic, its delegation left the talks. UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura halted the negotiation process until February 25.
He stressed that the suspension was only «a temporary pause», but it’s hard to imagine the enemies of President Bashar Assad changing their stance in just three weeks.
Anne Barnard, an American journalist specializing in the Middle Eastern affairs, offered an interesting assessment of their actions in an article published by the New York Times.
According to her, the opposition’s delegation in Geneva acted «under the watchful eye of an adviser from Saudi Arabia, Major Ibrahim». The author emphasizes the fact that the opposition gets funds from the sponsors. «Room service offered staple Syrian food – «Oriental mezze» – for about $40, which in Syria might constitute two weeks’ decent wages», she writes describing the living conditions of the opposition talks participants in Geneva.
There are two main factors that make the fight against the Syrian government continue: the funds coming from abroad and thousands of foreign mercenaries involved in combat actions, fighting for money paid by outside sponsors. These fighters are not the kind of people who could show up at the Geneva peace talks, but their influence on the negotiation process is a factor to reckon with. The majority of native Syrians see no reason to go on with hostilities, but the mercenaries see things in a different light.
Formally, the US administration no longer insists on the immediate departure of Assad. It may not happen right now, it says. A rather murky position! Washington has made no gains since it started the fight against the Islamic State about two years ago. It has also failed to bring about regime change in Syria. According to US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, over 10,000 airstrikes have been delivered in the recent 18 months. Carter admitted the US is running low on precision bombs and missiles.
The Secretary laid out the problem during a preview of the Defense Department’s 2017 budget, which includes a request for $1.8 billion to buy 45,000 smart bombs and other guided munitions.
The United States leads a coalition of 66 states (Afghanistan has joined recently), but the majority of members are armchair warriors. The US Air Force accounts for about 90 percent of airstrikes. Highlighting new investments in the 2017 budget to deal with the accelerated military campaign against the Islamic State, Carter said the Defense Department is requesting $7.5 billion, twice more than in 2016. At that, few Americans believe the increase in allocations will lead to success.
The plans to use the fight against the Islamic State as a cover for delivering a decisive blow to Damascus have been dashed. It should also be noted that there is no Syrian government’s consent for attacks on its territory. The United States believes a ground operation to be too risky. The US death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan amounts to about 5 thousand. Americans are reluctant to support another war. Many US politicians say President Obama is weak, but few of them are ready to express open support for American boots on the ground. Washington needs allies who would agree to send soldiers for taking part in combat actions on the Syrian soil. The pretext will remain unchanged – the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group.
The spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s military said on February 4, the kingdom was ready to join any ground operation in Syria if required by the US-led coalition, a move welcomed by the White House. «The kingdom is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition (against ISIS) may agree to carry out in Syria», said military spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri during an interview with Al Arabiya News Channel.
The US Defense Secretary said he welcomed Saudi Arabia’s announcement that it was prepared to ramp up its commitment to fight.
He noted that he will discuss the issue with his Saudi counterpart in Brussels this week. Carter is going to meet 26 defense ministers of key countries making up part of US-led coalition countering the Islamic State in Brussels.
Thousands of Saudi special forces could be deployed, likely in coordination with Turkey, Saudi sources told the Guardian.
Both countries are adamant in their desire to overthrow President Bashar Assad. They have no interest in peaceful settlement of the crisis. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, Syrian peace talks in Geneva, which were suspended on February 3, were pointless. Saudi Arabia and Turkey set up a military coordination body a few weeks ago. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have said, they are ready to join Saudi Arabia and send their troops to Syria. Many things indicate that an invasion of Syria is imminent.
It won’t be a surprise for the Russian military. «We have serious grounds to suspect Turkey of intensive preparations for military intrusion into the territory of the sovereign state – the Syrian Arab Republic. We are registering an increasing number of signs of the Turkish armed forces’ hidden preparations for active operations on the territory of Syria», said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov.
The Russian Defence Ministry has made public irrefutable evidence to prove the affirmation that Turkey delivers artillery strikes against Syrian populated areas in the north of Latakia.
With the assistance of Russian airstrikes, President Bashar Assad's forces are pressing ahead with a major offensive around Aleppo – the objective of strategic importance. Before the Russian military operation started, the Syrian government forces retained about 70 percent of the city’s territory. Now they are advancing to establish full control of it, including the countryside.
With Aleppo under its control, the Syrian army will get access to the Turkish border and cut the routes with supplies to the Syrian armed opposition and the Islamic State.
On February 3, it was reported that the Syrian army encircled the city and cut off the enemy’s northern supply routes. That’s what made the Syrian opposition call off its delegation from Geneva.