The Persuasive Art of the Impossible
"We haven't yet closed the gaps in a way where we think it would actually work. Typically the tone of our meetings is candid, blunt, businesslike. This was no different."
"Given the gaps of trust that exist, that's a tough negotiation."
"[The aim of the discussion was to reach] meaningful, serious, verifiable cessations of hostilities in Syria."
"[Both countries need to] focus attention on common enemies, like ISIL [Islamic State] and Al-Nusra."
"[M]y instructions to Secretary Kerry and Mr Putin's instructions to [Foreign Minister] Mr Lavrov were to keep working at it over the next several days."
U.S. President Barack Obama
grounds to believe [results may be achieved] within the next few days.""I think he absolutely sincerely aims to reach results in fighting terrorism and resolving the Syrian conflict.""It was mainly the two of us who had the discussion, going into detail. I think we have reached mutual understandings.""We could, at least for a period of time, agree on mutual and active efforts to recover the situation in Syria [in consultation with the Syrian government]."Our other partners, including Iran, will also be informed [on the progress]."Russian President Vladimir V. Putin
Despite the anticipatory hope that the relatively brief 90-minute meeting that took place between the two world leaders at the G20 summit would be fruitful, there was no break-through. Not that the hour-and-a-half was restricted solely to discussions about how to manage the Syrian conflict, to the exclusion of other matters of importance consuming the attention of both presidents. It does, however, represent the most compellingly urgent one, to cease the bombing that takes its toll primarily on Syrian civilians.
The secondary issue of how to join forces to expunge the Islamic State from the Middle East and render it obsolete at the international level would be the primary issue if it weren't for the fact that the Syrian regime is steadfast in viewing its Syrian Sunni opponents as disposable terrorists whom Bashar al-Assad has the obligation as a tyrannical murderer to wipe from the face of the Earth. He's made a fairly good start, with the death toll among Syrians hovering around an incredible half-million mark.
This is a slaughter of such impressive proportions, that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant must look on with envy, since it makes their creatively atrocious death toll minuscule by comparison. Freely describing Syrian rebel militias as 'terrorists' makes one wonder how to describe accurately the Syrian regime, if not as ultra-fascistic terrorists accomplishing with ease the bifurcation of Syria, rather than heed the cry for equality that arose from his oppressed Sunni subjects.
The Syrian president is nothing if not supremely intransigent; adamant that he has no intention -- now or at any time in the future, of bargaining for peace with the Syrian rebels. Negotiations can be considered, no doubt, when the rebels are all dead, and the remaining Sunni civilians are completely subdued, awaiting the further punishment due them for presuming to question their place in the Alawite-ruled nation.
Mr. Obama ideally would be more certain of trust in whatever Mr. Putin professes that might arise from a joint agreement, if Assad could be persuaded to stop its barrel bombing of the civilian population in Syria. But while Assad is happy that Moscow has stepped into the brutal fray, he is not the least bit amenable to persuasion of any kind from any source that might have the effect of rewarding the sacrifices of Syria's Sunnis, by surrendering to any of their demands.
And the Islamic State terrorists -- despite losing territory, reducing their holdings in Iraq and Syria significantly, mostly through the superior fighting skills of Kurdish militias under cover of U.S.-led aerial bombardment -- remain well positioned to present as a virulent threat abroad as its acolytes in sacred jihad plot out clandestine cells committed to launching more unexpected attacks aimed at vulnerable segments of the population going about their normal business in Europe and elsewhere, as the mood of the enterprise takes them.
And nor are they inclined to neglect their opportunities to launch deadly attacks in the near vicinity of their shrinking caliphate, with near-simultaneous bombings striking Syrian government strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry will return to his fervent dedication as the supreme diplomat, of influencing his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, to stem violence between Assad's forces and the rebels supported by the United States. The very hope that Damascus could be persuaded to refrain from bombing the rebels seems a non-starter.
This, without taking into account the most recent entrant into the violence being played out in Syria where Ankara has sent its troops and tanks across the border to assault the YPG, the most effective players in the conflict against the Islamic State, and the one that NATO, the United States and its allies have vested their hopes toward, in destroying the ISIL presence, by the proven, most effective fighting force, now struggling to defend itself from the double evil of the Recep Tayyip Erdogan's malice, and the ISIL fanatics.