Syrian talks end in failure; Obama has no Plan B

The farcical Syrian peace talks have apparently come to an end. The talks were never going to produce peace unless Russia pressured Assad into giving up or sharing power. And Russia was never going to pressure Assad into giving up or sharing power because he is Russia’s ally and is winning the civil war. Indeed, Russia recently blocked a U.N. resolution to bring aid to desperate Syrian civilians.

The Obama administration is miffed, once again, at reality. A senior official whined that Russia “can’t have it both ways” — it can’t say it wants peace and a happy Olympics while it is “part and parcel of supporting this regime as it kills people in the most brutal way.”

Actually, though, Russia is having it both ways, and can have it as many ways as it wants as long as the hapless Obama administration is in the picture. After Obama’s 2009 visit to Russia, I was told by insiders that the Russians had concluded they could steal the president’s pants. They have since stolen several pairs and John Kerry’s too. The Syrian peace talks are just the latest example.

The peace talks weren’t just a non-event; they were another blow to U.S. interests and another success for Assad. Why? Because the non-extremist opposition, which participated at America’s urging, comes away with nothing. Thus, as the Washington Post suggests, it is likely to lose what little influence and credibility it possesses among front-line fighters.

This represents a victory for the extremist opposition, including al Qaeda. And it is also a victory for Assad, who relies on fear of extremist elements in the opposition to maintain power and keep the U.S. at arms length. Indeed, Assad’s representatives have acknowledged that they came to Geneva to raise awareness of the terrorist threat posed by the opposition. Clearly, they did not come to make concessions, not even small, purely humanitarian ones.

Accordingly, the peace talks provided no respite from the killing. On the contrary, according to the Post killing accelerated while the talks went on. One source estimates that more than 3,400 people have been killed since the talks began on January 22, the fastest pace of deaths during the war so far. The barrel bombing that has emptied Aleppo is just one example of the intensification of government violence during the talks.

What’s next? More of the same. The Post reminds us that the Geneva talks, which we have seen were always destined to fail, “represent the only strategy Obama has advanced to try to end the war.” Moreover, “Western diplomats have acknowledged that they have no Plan B.”

Unless one counts being jerked around some more by the Russians.