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Geneva 2 meaningless unless all parties, including ‘beheading jihadist’ attend talks

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia.

Published time: January 17, 2014 04:08
Free Syrian Army fighters man checkpoints to prevent members of the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from entering Masaken Hanano neighborhood in Aleppo January 7, 2014. Five days of heavy rebel infighting has shaken the ISIL, which lost its main base in the northern city of Aleppo to rival rebels on Wednesday, according to a monitoring group. Picture taken January 7, 2014. (Reuters / Jalal Alhalabi)

Geneva talks are set to fail unless the armed Syrian opposition, including radical jihadists, as well as all the regional players, including Iran and Hezbollah, attend the negotiations, journalist Pepe Escobar told RT.

RT: The rebel infighting adds another dimension to the Syrian conflict - how is it affecting the wider peace efforts in Syria? Is it adding another complication?

Pepe Escobar: It is, because there is no sense of having a Geneva 2 if you don’t have representatives of beheading jihadists at the table. And we know that this 30,000 or so army being more or less assembled by Bandar Bush and his acolytes across the Middle East, these are the real actors on the ground. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda or CIA-al-Qaeda linked or not – these are the people who are doing the war, who are fighting the war and who are still being weaponized.

The Free Syrian Army as we understood it until a few months ago, it does not exist anymore. It was controlled by Qatar. Qatar is not a player in Syria anymore. Saudi Arabia is. If Saudi Arabia would be at the table in Geneva 2, Iran would have to be at the table as well. No preconditions. And nothing like this is going to happen in Geneva 2. So we’re going to have a talk fest and it will have no influence on the war on the ground in the long run.

RT: Will any of the opposition groups be there in any shape or form? Any representatives to talk to on the other side, because any talks are better than no talks, surely?

PE:
Of course, any talk is better than no talk. The thing is that the opposition, the armed opposition from the very beginning, their number one precondition was – Assad out. It never happened and it won’t happen.

So if Assad stays, the Syrian government is part of the talks and the armed and the unarmed opposition should be part of the talks. This includes what we call the Paris gang, those exiles who control part of the unarmed opposition in Paris. Some of them will be in Geneva, some will not.

But we won’t have the armed opposition in full and this is the most important thing. So whatever you decide…if you have a roadmap out of Geneva 2 and it does not account for the real facts on the ground, which we see every day, and the expansion of the war to Lebanon and across the border between Syria and Iraq, it will be just a talk fest.

RT: Will Iran be present at the talks?

PE:
We don’t know, we still don’t know, because there is still no official confirmation from the Iranian foreign ministry that they will be there.

Civilians accompanied by Free Syrian Army fighters gesture as they march during a protest against fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Kadi Askar neighbourhood of Aleppo January 7, 2014. (Reuters / Abdalrhman Ismail)


RT:
What can they offer anyways?

PE:
Look, we have more or less concrete evidence that some of the Revolutionary Guard Units helped the Assad government, especially reconquering parts of the Hama corridor between Damascus and Aleppo. And of course we know that Hezbollah has also helped. And we know that Hezbollah is guarding the Lebanese-Syrian border.

So Hezbollah should be at the table. Representatives of the IRGC should also be at the table. They are players on the ground as much as are all the different factions weaponized by Turkey, by Jordanians, by the CIA, especially by the Bandar Bush, by the Saudis.

RT: Syria's Foreign Minister reportedly sent a letter to the UN Secretary General, demanding that the countries supporting terrorist groups stop training and funding them. Will that be a centre issue at the upcoming conference? Is that going to be up for discussion or not?

PE: We still don’t know. And even the UN… We don’t have a UN mechanism… Do we have the UN as overarching establisher of peace in Syria? Not at all. Lakhdar Brahimi and everybody else is just one more player among other squabbling players.

It is a very sorry state of affairs because if we had the US Secretary of State John Kerry for instance being really forceful in having all these people controlled by the Turks, by the Saudis and even by the Qataris, some reverence of some Qatari adjutant, let’s put it this way on the table as well – and this is what the Russians have been saying all along via Foreign Minister Lavrov – we would have a meaningful discussion. For the moment, there is no indication that this would be a meaningful discussion.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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