The second day of talks in Astana proved so difficult that the latter will not become – the tantrums and the threats will continue. No one said that to achieve at least some compromise between Damascus and numerous opposition groups would be easy, but the difficulties were too many. What are the main of them?
The talks in Astana, they had to extend another day against a pre-announced rules because of the difficulties encountered in the preparation of the final document – resolution. It is noteworthy that in drafting this text involved only of the delegation, the sponsors of the talks: Russia, Turkey and Iran, but not the representatives of Damascus and the disparate opposition groups. The last openly lamented the fact that they “did not see” the outcome document. This is logical, because the opposition (as all together or individually) are unable to abandon two of their basic slogans, on which rests the civil war in Syria.
“His military and organizational talent was reinforced by the many sermons on the rarity of the radical wing. Shiites and alawites he called “more infidels than Christians and Jews”, but fall to ISIS”
First, it is “Bashar must go” and scholastic dispute about when – immediately or a little later, the role does not play. All opposition groups, both political and purely military – is denied to the current Syrian President in the constitutional right to participate in new elections than is liquidated and the right to vote of millions of supporters of Assad. Frankly, without diplomatic verbal tinsel, it looks a clear sign of inadequacy, distorted perception of reality as with persistence of a maniac on a similar requirement may insist that only the party that feels for a military victory. And the situation on the fronts is now the opposite. Honestly, the opposition needs now only to nod and say Yes, because they have a unique chance to retouch their military defeat, political arrangements, which they convert their virtual position in Syrian politics in a kind of reality. It is not clear what is the fraction in the Parliament, quota in government positions in local government. But such a compromise seems to be a subject of a future political agreement.
However, opposition groups (primarily the emigre circles, the so-called hospitality opposition) continue to live in an alternate reality. They are convinced that the very fact of their invitation to the talks in Astana – a concession by Damascus, Moscow and other parties to the process, so you can bargain further. This, of course, the peculiarities of the local mentality, in which any negotiation initiative is perceived as a weakness of who these negotiations are initiated. But it is a virtual ego dispersed much more serious the forces behind the “hotel opposition” – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE. Incidentally, two weeks had to persuade that they have arrived in Astana.
It is noteworthy that in Astana the representatives of the belligerent opposition in General, keep quiet and large diplomats of itself do not build, though, and changed the camo on European suits. The representative of the “Syrian free army” on legal issues Osama Abu Zeid (this pathetic name – was the name of one of the favorite companions of the prophet Muhammad, but as a really is this person’s name with a fixed gaze of the killer, nobody really knows), for example, chose to tactfully discuss only issues guarantees from Moscow for the further observance of the truce. This, of course, does not mean that the FSA, once having lost the American and Turkish support, decided to surrender. Simply, it provides the opportunity to come forward to people who are more talkative and more secure air-conditioned hotels in Riyadh and Paris. But on the other hand makes the emphasis on the details of the violations of the truce, so that this does not recur in the future, that is welcomed by all parties to the negotiations. The same Osama Abu Zeid belongs to a symbolic statement on the end of the second day of negotiations: “Political issues were not discussed. At all.”
Shia must go
Who is friends with whom and the war in Syria and Iraq and secondly, all the opposition groups categorically reject the possibility of Iran’s participation in further discussions. And it’s not just the desire to shut out of the negotiations is not convenient to the player, but a manifestation of one of the root causes of the conflict – religious intolerance became in the last two years in blatant racism against Shia and alawites. They represents Shiite Iran, and what can be negotiated, if “the good Shia is a dead Shia”?
It’s a dead end and a dead end system. Moscow insisted on Tehran’s participation in the current round of negotiations based on including the fact that the Shiite military units fighting on the side of the government army, strong enough, and the interests of the Shiite population, which at some point was on the verge of physical survival, must be considered. By the way, in the demonization of Shiites observed not only jihadists, but also quite secular opposition. They even Alawite-Christian government is ready to negotiate, but Iran, Hezbollah, the Palestinians and the Shiite militias equal to the fiend and the companions of the Dajjal. This is not a political position, but something at the subconscious level.
It is theoretically possible to make one concession and to ask Tehran to sit on the sidelines a couple of days. He quite agrees to it, if to guarantee the security of the Shiite population in Syria. But in the atmosphere of overt racism to build a new and desirable secular state is quite problematic. However, the delegation of Damascus has openly supported Iran. Syrian Ambassador to UN Bashar Jaafari said that Tehran played a definitely positive role in the negotiations, and his opinion in this context should be taken into account. The difference in approaches to the negotiation process, the Ambassador demonstrated in the following way: “If we wanted to simplify things and to act as they (the representatives of several armed opposition groups – approx. OPINION), we could say that Turkey’s role negative. Yes, it is negative, but we do not declare, because we are diplomats, we are responsible, we do not do that. In politics sometimes you have to deal with the enemies to save their country, and that’s what we do.”
Terms of reference of those or other opposition participants is a particularly difficult story. Often these powers are either in the shade of private circumstances, or even replaced them.
So many scandals and the behind-the-scenes intrigue surrounded the figure of the chief negotiator from the group “Jaish al-Islam,” Mohammed Alloush, who spur of the moment vying for the position of chief negotiator from the opposition – both armed and “hotel”. Last year with the filing Alloush of Saudi Arabia was positioned as the official representative of the so-called Higher Committee for negotiations, “the Committee of Riyadh”, for its headquarters in the Saudi capital Riyadh, and is headed by Riad Farid Hijab, a former Prime Minister of Syria, most senior refugee and “secular opposition” (that was a coincidence). It Riyad Hijab was the head of the delegation of the “secular opposition” at last year’s talks in Geneva. Moscow, by the way, wanted to see in his place another “refugee” – the former Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil, head of the exile group “popular front for change and liberation of Syria” (he studied in the USSR and is famous for its Communist views), but Saudi Arabia continued to push for the position of chief negotiator Mohammad Alloush, although he represented only “Jaish al-Islam”.
At that time, “Jaish al-Islam” was considered to be openly a terrorist organization. And Russia and Iran flatly refused to sit with her at the same table. Didn’t like Allush and government delegation of Syria because it is “Jaish al-Islam” (then “Liua al-Islam”) was behind the famous terrorist act of 2012 in the heart of Damascus, when they were killed including defense Minister Dawood Raja and his Deputy assef Shawkat – a close relative of Bashar al-Assad. But Alloush raised such a cry that the question of the recognition of his “negotiator” has become almost the key. He even John Kerry managed to blame the pressure on him and the delegation “Jaish al-Islam” in General.
The thing is that the “Jaish al-Islam” – a family business of a small clan of fanatical Salafi by the name of Alloush. In the family of a Salafist preacher in Damascus suburb – Eastern ghouta – Sheikh Abdullah Alloush in 1971 was born the son Zahran, who went in his sermons considerably further than his father. From the age of 17 he occasionally found himself in jail for a variety of jihadist sermons, but in 2012 came under the Amnesty, which Damascus announced of conciliatory views. Coming out of prison, Zahran for several months together in Eastern Guta largest Salafi grouping, combining more than 40 different units. However, his military organizational skills were supported by numerous sermons on the rarity of the radical wing. Shiites and alawites he called “more infidels than Christians and Jews”, but fall and LIH* that Salafi criticized on purely Quranic reasons.
However, 25 Dec 2015 pinpoint missile strike was struck by the headquarters of the “Jaish al-Islam” in Eastern ghouta. And exactly at the moment when there passed a meeting of field commanders led by Saranam. The corpse was identified. The Russian defense Ministry has not confirmed its participation in the elimination of leadership groups, all responsibility has been taken by Damascus.
Muhammad Alloush – both cousin and brother-in-law of the assassinated founder of “Jaish al-Islam” (is that possible – Zahran had three wives and ten children, the marriages of first cousins in this environment – the usual case). Small in stature, loud, rude bearded man tried to seize power in the headless group, but it pushed Issam al-Suwaidan, aka Abu Humam, however, everything already went to hell. The government army began the elimination of the enclave in Eastern ghouta, part of the “Jaish al-Islam” in Aleppo was carrying a irreparable loss as a result of the defeat of the ideology of the group rapidly began to change. “Jaish al-Islam” became publicly condemn terrorist acts in Europe, more sharply criticized ISIS and eventually joined the Russia-initiated truce in December last year.
Now Allush in the backstage the support of the Saudis so fiercely fighting for their place under the sun, that the representative of Damascus, Bashar al-ja’afari is not only a career diplomat with four decades of experience, but also the most representative figure of all those who gathered in Astana, was forced to declare that “his behavior was far from diplomatic norms.” Moreover, it remained unclear who still is Mohammed Alloush – all “Committee in Riyadh’s” only “Jaish al-Islam” or only himself as a creature of the Saudis.
Wolf, goat and cabbage
It is necessary to identify the status of those groups that have not joined the December armistice and formally are in a state of war of all against all, but still came to Astana. A lot of them: “Jaish al-Issa”, “Jaish al-Nasr”, “Shuhada al-Islam”, “al-Firka al-Sahily al-ula”, “Sukur al-sham”, “ajnad Facebook page al-sham” and the Union “Pustakam”. Everyone has their own vision of the world around you, and not the fact that all this cosmogony will be able to lead to a common denominator. It is possible that the negotiations after some time can be broken into separate “chambers” that are generated by common efforts, the final documents will consist of common words and declarations, and local agreements will remain behind the scenes for quite some time, and their embodiment in reality we will only see “on the ground”, without the announcement with much fanfare of any written text. It is normal for difficult stories of this kind. We must not forget that secret negotiations are not only in recent months – they accompany almost the entire civil war, only entourage and attendance varied.
Yet to take care of all of this company came from the UN special envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura. And not because he had to think of something else to do (last year in Geneva over it frankly laughed and Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry were in no hurry to give him the floor). Just as very much a neutral party he is theoretically able to negotiate with them, without clutching valokordin or a gun. He is, after all, the Swede, although it is considered an Italian diplomat, and in addition to the Nordic nature has a really great experience in similar kind of activities – from Communist Albania to Lebanon.
For two days, these people with unclear authority and status, however, undertake to articulate demands to the government of Syria, to accept or reject that threshold, Ambassador ja’afari is simply no way. For example, put forward a request for total Amnesty for all “political prisoners”. The term in quotes because its the exact definition of opposition and was not represented, but was named a ballpark figure of about 200 thousand people. There is no certainty that Syria even has a number of prisons to accommodate so many people. But the requirement is stated, and apparently even recorded.
In the evening Muhammad Alloush has even said that the Russian side allegedly “promised” to promote the release of the prisoners. Osama Abu Zeid straightened his companion in the sense that the Russian side “has promised to take action”. What is the stylistic difference is anyone’s guess. According to some data, the Russian delegation had in mind the release of women prisoners, and other details behind the scenes.
Another thing is that easy small talk and no one promised. When in one room together many worst enemies (only from the armed groups arrived 14 delegations), it is impossible to succeed in two and a half of daylight. Those negotiations are unprecedented, and they will go down in history of diplomacy regardless of what will be their first results. In addition, we must not forget that along the way, solved not only diplomatic issues, but purely military. Of the Russian Federation in the discussions attended by the Deputy head of the Main operations Directorate of the General staff, General Stanislaw Gadzhimagomedov, who last year performed a similar function in Geneva.
“We are faced with a difficult task to move across the river in the same boat as wolf, goat and cabbage”, – told RIA “Novosti” an unnamed source in the Russian delegation. And it’s not a poetic image but a classic puzzle mentioned in early medieval manuscript “the objectives for the development of a young mind” and included in the folklore of many Nations – from Zimbabwe to Scandinavia. The man knew what he was saying – despite some troubles with the definition of the Russian delegation cope with their responsibilities perfectly.
By the way, first you need to transport a goat. And then another few times to swim there and back.
* Organization in respect of which the court accepted entered into legal force decision on liquidation or ban the activities on the grounds stipulated by the Federal law “On countering extremist activity”