Thursday, May 16, 2013

Analysis: Syria peace talks look doomed in advance

May 14, 2013
(Reuters) - If anyone saw last week's U.S.-Russian agreement to convene a peace conference on Syria as a potential breakthrough, Western leaders have been going out of their way to disabuse them.

International envoy Lakhdar Brahimi hailed the plan as the "first hopeful news" on Syria in a long time and deferred his own plans to resign after nine months of futile mediation.

He called the proposal "only a first step". But even its sponsors are dampening expectations that a civil war estimated to have killed well over 70,000 can be doused soon, and pitfalls they cite in public are only a few of those lying in wait.

"I'm not promising that it's going to be successful," U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday. Obstacles, he said, include Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah, both of which support President Bashar al-Assad, as well as the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front on the rebel side.

Obama did not mention chronic disunity in the ranks of the Western-backed opposition or its almost complete lack of control over the now mostly Islamist insurgent forces on the ground.

Once "the furies have been unleashed ... it's very hard to put things back together", he said.

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