The eyes of the world watch as the peace conference to end the three-year long conflict in Syria, and perhaps claim a new future for the country, is underway in the peaceful town of Montreux, Switzerland. Over a day and a half away, the conflict continues with a level of violence overshadowing many conflicts still in participation around the world. The forces of Bashar al-Assad clash with soldiers of the opposition throughout the ancient towns of Syria, amidst blood-splattered rubble.
The violence is so intense and pervasive that one has to wonder what any kind of talking miles away will accomplish. The peace conference, a preliminary event to a more in-depth meeting set for Geneva, has a three-year conflict and layers of human rights violations to overcome. Barrel bombs have been dropped onto homes and neighborhoods, and school children detained and tortured for spraying anti-government graffiti. Even gas attacks have been used in the ongoing conflict.
As predicted, words and tempers flared from the onset of the conference, with the president of the Syrian opposition coalition, Ahmad Assi al-Jarba, lambasting the Assad government representatives. Among the criticisms raised was Iran’s involvement in backing Assad to the point of sending elite Qud troops to Syria to bolster government forces. Russia also supports Assad in opposition to the United States and a number of U.N. countries.
With Russia set to host the Winter Olympics in Sochi next month, the dichotomy of the situation in Syria and its future is not lost. Russia and the United States have a long history of being on opposite sides of the fence when dealing with governments of other countries. Historically, Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan are but a few of the bones of contention between the Eastern and Western Blocs. Syria is the latest.
What of Syria itself? The words “crisis” and “destruction” have been applied to the conflict. Also coined is Assad’s proclivity for “shooting his way” out of problems arising from his rule; over 130,000 have been killed and millions displaced from their homes. Rampant shortages and rubble are strewn across much of the country, with brutalities inflicted by the Assad government upon its own people.
This situation is nothing new in recent history. Indeed, some form of killing and atrocities are still ongoing. The term “genocide” has been applied to many African conflicts. Violence has been running rampant, with suicide bombings and attacks on civilian targets in the Middle East and even in Russia. Rape, where women are brutalized, has been institutionalized in India. Even the resurgence of hate groups in America are starting to gain notice. There are no official large-scale conflicts that might incur the label of “war,” but the world is peppered with so many smaller conflicts that the distinction is but a blurred line.
The objective of the peace talks in Montreux and later in Geneva, is to establish a transitional government in Syria to put an end to the violence there. It was once said that getting both sides to even show up is a victory in itself. If the heated exchanges are any indication, finding a lasting resolution to the Syrian conflict is going to be a steep uphill battle. The future of Syria rests in the outcome of these peace talks.
Editorial by Lee Birdine