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Geneva 4 has not ended, but it is doomed to fail

The US government tried to solve the Syria crisis by suggesting three rounds of negotiations based on a balanced political proposal. Yet the Damascus-Iran-Russia axis ruined all three. Moscow has arranged two conferences, one in Astana and the other currently being held in Geneva. The beginnings confirm the end: A repeated failure.

Although almost everyone cooperated with Russia’s project — including Turkey, Gulf countries and the administration of US President Donald Trump — this was not enough. In order to satisfy Moscow, and in cooperation with the UN, providing arms to the opposition has been suspended.

Moderate opposition factions were pressured to accept solutions that are not up to their expectations, while others were barred from participating in the talks. Washington supported the solution, and UN envoy Staffan de Mistura defended Russia’s stance.

The Geneva 4 conference has not ended yet, but it seems doomed to fail. This reveals that there is no winning or strong team that can be imposed on everyone else, like what Iran and Russia tried to do with the Syrian regime. The suggested solution does not meet the minimum expectations of millions of displaced, frightened Syrians. The project is based on keeping the regime in power, which means enforcing its policy of displacement.

The idea cannot survive even if all factions sign up to it. The formula aims to enable the regime to rule most of Syria by force, like the West Bank under Israeli occupation, except that Israel has a strong system that allows it to control this anomaly.

Russia tried to convince a number of opposing factions to join the regime, offering them government positions in exchange. Yet to these factions and everyone else, this seems like legalizing rape. No one will accept such a solution.

The previously proposed political solution was rejected by both the regime and the opposition. But it is a practical and reasonable solution, suggesting a unity government. It can be developed by keeping the president but giving security and finance to the opposition, or by changing the president and keeping sovereign posts for the regime, but within a framework of cooperation protected by regional and international authorities.

Russia tried to convince a number of opposing factions to join the regime, offering them government positions in exchange. Yet to these factions and everyone else, this seems like legalizing rape. No one will accept such a solution.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Sharing can be based on a reasonable, balanced formula that both parties have an interest in maintaining: Either the presidency or the presidency’s jurisdictions, but not both. We have a standing model, the Taif Agreement, which ended the Lebanese civil war, which was much more complicated than Syria’s. The agreement was based on a solution in which all parties made concessions.

There were calls to cancel Lebanese Christians’ right to the presidency and its jurisdictions. The dispute ended with the presidency remaining Christian but losing some of its jurisdictions to other parties. Had it not been for the Taif Agreement, the war may have continued and the Christians would have lost their shares.

If the Sunnis and Shiites had refused to make concessions, the war would have resulted in more foreign intervention that would have prolonged the war and deepened sectarian divisions. The current political situation in Lebanon is neither perfect nor great, but at least the country is stable.

Syria’s crisis is less complicated, especially that the civil opposition accepts to share power and a constitution that protects all minorities and involves all Syrians regardless of religion or ethnicity. As for the armed Islamic opposition, most of its factions are rejected by everyone because it has a religious and internationalist agenda that Syria’s people do not want.

The failure of the Astana and Geneva talks will spur on fighting, even after denying the armament of the moderate opposition, some of which had to form coalitions with terrorist groups to protect themselves after running out of ammunition. The repeated failure may lead uncompromising parties to think reasonably and rationally.

Iran must realize that it will not be allowed to take over Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Tehran benefited from the weakness of the former US administration, and its hegemonic ambitions threaten the region and the world. It is a hazard because Iran uses its agents as a weapon against its rivals, including Americans and Europeans, or because unrest will continue, thus attracting more extremists and threatening everyone.

• Abdulrahman Al-Rashed, a veteran columnist, is former general manager of Al Arabiya News Channel and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article was originally published.