Reprinted from Counterpunch
The UN-sponsored Syrian peace talks, which began on Friday in Geneva, will be boycotted by the main Syrian opposition group which has insisted that Russia stop bombing its positions while negotiations are conducted. To appreciate how ridiculous these demands are, one would have to imagine a similar scenario taking place in the United States. Let's say, for example, that Ammon Bundy, the crackpot leader of the armed militia that seized the federal wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon, demanded that the FBI and all other federal agents vamoose while the UN convened negotiations between his representatives and the Obama administration for the establishment of a transitional government that would remove Obama from power after 18 months while rewriting the constitution so it better reflected the far-right political and religious convictions of Bundy and his gaggle of ne'er-do-well followers.
Does that seem like a reasonable proposition to you?
This is the context in which the current "talks" are being held. Is it any wonder why Moscow doesn't take this charade seriously? It's a joke.
In what other country are armed militias allowed to occupy cities, kill civilians, destroy critical infrastructure, create total mayhem and threaten to overthrow the elected government?
None. And yet, the Obama team thinks this is a perfectly acceptable way for citizens and even non citizens (most of the "rebels" are foreign nationals or jihadis) to act, provided their political objectives coincide with those of Washington. Which they do. From the very beginning, Washington's sole aim has been to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad so the oil fields and pipeline corridors could be secured by the western oil giants and protected by new US military bases sprinkled across the country. This has been the basic game plan since Day 1, and this is why Obama and Co are so eager to slow the Russian-led offensive by any means possible even if it means engaging in meaningless negotiations that have no other purpose than to implement a ceasefire so these same US-backed terrorists can regroup and fight at some future date when they are better prepared.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sees through this ruse but -- all the same -- he's dispatched diplomats to Geneva to play along and go-through-the-motions. But will he cave in and agree to a ceasefire so Obama's "rebels" can live to fight another day? Don't bet on it.
What Americans are not reading in the western media is that, after months of slow but steady progress, the Russian-led coalition (Syrian Arab Army, Iranian Quds Forces, and Hezbollah) has broken through the sluice gate and is advancing on all fronts while enemy positions are crumbling. Key cities and towns in Latakia province along the Turkish border that used to be jihadi strongholds have buckled under Russia's relentless bombing raids and been liberated by the Syrian Army. Aleppo, Syria's biggest city to the north, has been surrounded by loyalist forces that have cut off supply lines to Turkey leaving fighters from Salafi groups like Ahrar al Sham, Jabhat al Nusra, Jaish al Islam, ISIS and the other al Qaida-linked groups to either surrender or hunker down while they await the final desperate confrontation.
The momentum has shifted in favor of Assad's forces which now clearly have the upper hand. What the western media characterizes as a "quagmire" has all the makings of a stunning victory for the Russian-led coalition that is gradually reestablishing security across Syria while sending the invaders running for cover. This is from Reuters:
"Three months into his military intervention in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved his central goal of stabilizing the Assad government and, with the costs relatively low, could sustain military operations at this level for years, U.S. officials and military analysts say.
"That assessment comes despite public assertions by President Barack Obama and top aides that Putin has embarked on an ill-conceived mission in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that it will struggle to afford and that will likely fail...
"Since its campaign began on Sept. 30, Russia has suffered minimal casualties and, despite domestic fiscal woes, is handily covering the operation's cost, which analysts estimate at $1-2 billion a year. The war is being funded from Russia's regular annual defense budget of about $54 billion, a U.S. intelligence official said...
"'An attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire and it won't work,' (President) Obama said on Oct. 2. On Dec. 1, he raised the prospect of Russia becoming 'bogged down in an inconclusive and paralyzing civil conflict.'
"The senior administration official denied any contradiction between Obama's statements and private assessments that Russia's campaign has been relatively effective so far.
"'I think the president's point has been...it's not going to succeed in the long run,' the official said. The Russians 'have become bound up in a civil war in a way that's going to be extremely difficult to extricate themselves from.'