There may not be any solution to the civil war in Syria, at least until one side or the other collapses from exhaustion, but the last, best hope for a peace process starts next week in Switzerland, with the opening of a peace conference jointly sponsored by the United States and Russia, under the auspices of the United Nations.
While Secretary of State John Kerry is scrambling to make sure that the rebels are represented in Geneva, the foreign ministers of Russia, Syria and Iran have been meeting in Moscow to prepare for the conference. However, thanks to roadblocks thrown up by the United States, Iran—Syria’s chief regional ally—won’t be invited to attend the talks. Kerry has threatened the Syrian opposition that American aid will be cut off if the groups refuse to attend the Geneva conference, but that’s problematic, too: first, the aid from the United States involves only non-lethal support, and much of it was already suspended when it looked like extremists among the rebels in Syria were seizing warehouses full of materiel.
In Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia meet with Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, and Syria’s foreign minister, Walid Moallem, and all three parties agreed that Iran can play a critical role is resolving the war in Syria, according to The Wall Street Journal:
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Iran would "inevitably" take part in any resolution to the civil war in Syria, as the Iranian and Syrian foreign ministers held a round of meetings with Russian officials in Moscow. After a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Mr. Lavrov said Iran should take part in an international peace conference aimed at finding a diplomatic solution to the war. “We are proceeding on the basis that Iran should and inevitably will be part of a set of measures to settle the Syria problems,” Mr. Lavrov told reporters.
What’s clear is that no settlement of the civil war is in sight. If it takes place at all, the conference will drag on for many, many months, toward an uncertain conclusion. The process of disarming Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal is proceeding apace, though not without some bumps in the road, and perhaps the best that could come from the meetings in Geneva is a plan to establish local ceasefires in which both sides agree to stop fighting and allow humanitarian supplies to reach desperate civilian populations.