Beating a dead horse, U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura continues his farce of Syria peace talks in Geneva after Saudi-backed Syrian rebels have been defeated by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with the help of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. Instead of confronting the Saudi-backed rebel groups, like Syrian Democratic Forces, De Mistura plays along with defeated Saudi-backed opposition groups.. Other than working his paid bureaucratic job U.N. Special Envoy, De Mistura has done nothing to end the humanitarian disaster in Syria. Now that the Islamic State has been driven out of Raqqa and other towns and villages in Syria, al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers will turn their attention to purging Syria of holdovers from Saudi-backed backed rebel groups. When the Saudi’s Arab Spring was in full swing March 15, 2011, Saudi-backed rebel groups staged phony rebellions around Syria.
Unlike other states that fell during the Arab Spring, like Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, al-Assad fought ferociously to save his country. Former President Barack Obama wholeheartedly backed Saudi rebel groups, giving them arms-and-cash over the last seven years, only to watch that strategy backfire once Russian President Vladimir Putin joined the fight Sept. 30, 2015 to save al-Assad. Six years of Obama’s failed policy resulted in some 400,000 Syrian deaths, 12 million more displaced refugees now rotting in refugee camps or fleeing to neighboring countries or Europe. Syria’s mass exodus, considered the worst humanitarian crisis since WW II, strained the European Union, driving Britain out Sept. 23, 2016 in the so-called Brexit vote. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s current failure to get a governing coalition directly relates to her Syrian immigration policy.
Fresh off forming his 40-nation counter-terrorism alliance, Saudi Defense Minister, Prince Mohammed bin Salman needs to pivot away from backing Syrian rebel groups. Fighting an endless war against Houthi rebels in Yemen, Bin Salman hopes to be the heir apparent to the Saudi Crown. After jailing 11 member of the Royal family and 200 more Nov. 4, including Cabinet ministers, on corruption charges, Bin Salman must pick his battles wisely if he wants to inherit the Crown from his father, King Salman bin Abulaziz al-Saud. Continuing to fund a failed seven-year proxy war against al-Assad hurts Bin Salman’s credibility. “The Assad regime must not be allowed to play for time while people are being besieged and bombed,” said Yahya al-Aridi in Geneva Sunday, the new head negotiator for opposition groups. Al-Aridi still insists that al-Assad must leave Damascus.
De Mistura has played along, placating Saudi-backed rebel groups believing they have clout to see al-Assad leave Damascus. After routed from strongholds in East Alepppo and other safe havens last year, the rebels have receded into Syria’s countryside to survive for another day. Now that ISIS has been defeated, al-Assad, Putin, Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, and Hezbollah’s Sheik Hassan Nasrallah can focus on Saudi-backed rebel groups. Syrian officials have said that if rebel groups want participation in Geneva, they need to lay down their arms. “The regime doesn’t want to really negotiate. They want to re-conquer every inch of Syrian territory and then negotiate. But then the opposition would have not bargaining chips,” said Nikolaos Van Dam, a former Dutch diplomat in Damascus. What Syrian opposition groups won’t admit to De Mistura in Geneva is they’ve lost the war.
President Donald Trump has departed from the Obama policy of backing Saudi-funded rebel groups, agreeing that ending the bloodshed and refugee crisis is the biggest priority. Instead of placating Saudi rebel groups, De Mistura should put the cards on the table, telling rebels to give up. Continuing the Geneva process, allowing Saudi-backed rebel groups to make unrealistic demands for al-Assad’s departure, only continues the bloodshed and humanitarian crisis. Holding talks in Astana, Kazakhstan Russia, Iran and Turkey all agree that to end the bloodshed rebel Saudi Arabia must stop funding rebel groups. “Russia wants to end the war but it wants its ally intact. So would be the compromise that is acceptable to the opposition or to the other countries? It’s not clear to me,” said Van Dam. De Mistura and Van Dam haven’t accepted that Saudi Arabia lost the seven-year proxy war in Syria.
Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bin Salman and 55-year-old U.S.-educated Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, need to face reality that they’ve lost the seven-year-old proxy war in Syria. Whether Saudi Arabia likes it or not, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah back al-Assad and have defeated Saudi-U.S.-Turkey-backed rebel forces. Once ousted from East Aleppo last December, rebel group fled to safe havens along the Turkish border. Begging for safe passage after the fall of East Aleppo, rebel groups agreed to al-Assad’s terms. Now that they’re regrouping in Syria’s hinterlands, Syrian Democratic Forces through their Geneva emissary al-Aridi want to call the shots. With ISIS all but defeated, Al Assad, Putin, Khamenei and Nasrallah plan to finish off rebel group near the Turkish border. Unless De Mistura can prevail on rebel groups in Geneva to give up, the bloodshed and chaos will continue.