Syria's conflict: No end in sight?

time time hello and welcome to our weekly look at events inside Syria heim Sam is a than how the Syrian conflict appears to show no sign of ending anytime soon a second round of peace talks ended in geneva last week without making any real progress syrian negotiators were insistent on the need to fight what they called terrorists the opposition on the other hand while their delegation continue to stress the need for a transitional administration to run the country until elections can be held now UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said it was difficult to find any common ground between the two sides meanwhile fighting inside the country goes on syrian activists say hundreds of people have died in airstrikes on rebel-held areas over the last few days the fighting is forced even more civilians across Syria’s borders in search of safety apart to the political and military stalemate stems from the fact that both sides in the Syrian conflict have powerful backers by shuttle assets still appears to enjoy the unwavering support of Russia Iran and the Lebanese armed group hezbollah the US a few European countries and some Gulf states have backed the rebel course but the presence of an increasing number of foreign fighters in Syria some claiming allegiance to al Qaeda is greatly complicating the situation their presence has deterred the US for example from agreeing to supply heavy weapons to the rebels for fear that they could end up in the so-called wrong hands well to discuss some of these issues for the let me introduce I guess now joining us from Jeddah is sow the political commentator same sure boxy Richard Murphy a former US ambassador to Syria and Saudi Arabia joins us from the US state of Colorado and in london James 10 slow Middle East analyst at the foreign policy sent a good to have you with us if I could start with mister shipp book she the Syria peace conference I guess you could say no surprise ended without any great breakthrough do you think it’s prompting a rethink of Syria policy among some other the Gulf backers of the Syrian opposition well it’s very obvious that there is a a party is specifically the Russians and the Chinese or taking an aggressive stand in protecting the regime in Syria and not allowing it to compromise the QR this compromise they’re not giving in at all to the demands of the rebels and the popular uprising in Syria that has been going on for over three years now it is clear that the russians are gonna only have it their way and only their ways to maintain at this that the scores at this and give Assad’s regime and I and ability to stay in power and let the dialogues think that all when the killings continue so what why how is how are people in the all policymakers in the Gulf capitals responding to this situation do you think now I think they’re responding also to the demand in there by the citizens there’s a great sympathy to the Syrian cause now in every color state that I think homes in every a country in the Arab world the the will increase the donations on the humanitarian aid but I think also the support for the rebels is gonna see a dynamic you up upswing I the circus that took place in geneva is obviously do prolonging the crises and the misery of the syrians and it’s only as the French say it’s for reforms to just simply showcase nothing more all right let’s go over to ambassador murphy you know it’s been reported there was a recent meeting in Washington involving the intelligence chiefs of the United States as well as a Telligent chiefs from the Middle East region and coordinating the idea I’ve love new sophisticated weapons dispatches so called MANPADS is the Obama administration changing its thinking now to how it approaches Syria first I think that the the American side is trying to improve the coordination between it so the europeans that have been supporting the church supporting the for the the rebel side and the friends and allies in the Arab world no does this mean that the decision has been taken before to supply the the type equipment such as manned switch President Obama’s been very reluctant to supply and hearst because EU he’s been concerned about getting in this you sent to the wrong hands up I don’t know whether decision has been taken but we’re moving in that direction a in trying to get a clearer picture on the ground in Syria with the cooperation of the intelligence the services so the review

the iraqis Jordan to understand and coordinate get thing those weapons to the right hands alright interesting side thermostats den slow could we say that although the Syria peace conference didn’t achieve anything during the talks aids building momentum for a new kind of synergy between the backers have the opposition now I think it’s a really interesting point I think that wall there was a predictable failure to Geneva to partly because the expectations and understandings from both sides as to what the conference represented was so vast there is perhaps unpredictable consequences as to what happens next I think the word you used about rethink is particularly important here at the Syrian opposition I think came out quite well from geneva to it was fairly unified appeared statesmanlike it appeared pragmatic and sensible out world while the regime often appeared very assertive angry in press conferences what defensive it was ambushed by so that the mother affair killed British doctor they look very bad as a perhaps now we have this moment where the Syrian opposition I which has been characterized as highly divided now we can look at Juliet the supporters of the opposition have their own divisions and think as to whether they can better unites in terms of the aims objectives in coordination and nowhere more so is that true then of the americans and Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia I thing has been extremely unhappy with US policy not just toward Syria but towards the rest to the region I think the decision in November the saudis not to accept to see to the security council was an incredible moment and I think perhaps now with Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia in march in these meetings in Washington and a change a person now at the top we might find ourselves with the new unified proxy opposition support base from the IRI Adam from washington and on that point mister shipp ok she as I’m sure you know the arabic-speaking media as well as the english-speaking media lately I’ve been buzzing with reports I should say these a media reports have been officially confirmed the in saudi arabia but the reports say that the Syria file of saudi policy’s been taken off the Saudi intelligence chief and given to the Minister of Interior Mohammed bin knife what we actually know about this and whether it signifies any real change in how Saudi Arabia is approaching Syria well the basic answer this we don’t know much about this and I think it’s merely a reporters speculation however we need to highlight something very significant after the Saudis have announced some very important steps to combat any jihadists fighting abroad or intending to fight that broke or supporting fighters abroad this is an interior Ministry of Interior jurisdiction so it is natural that the Minister of Interior Mohammed bin Nayef will be involved in fires of such nature but it remains to be seen if it is officially completely will be transferred to him as a matter of operations not just a matter jurisdiction okay ambassador murphy if for example the Saudi Minister of Interior is now being more involved shall we say in the Serie A file one way or another what that make a big difference to how the US views its policy and whether there are sufficient guarantees as to the end the you know the so-called end user of weapons I think it definitely can be helpful there’s been in close cooperation between Minister and the American authorities over the last several years and it’s been a good working relationship so there’s there’s I think mutual confidence there the period of irritation re certainly reached its peak last october november is mister d’angelo saying and there have been several efforts made from the american side to explain our position to for nature to bring about a better understanding what we were aiming to at the in terms of both about supplying the rebels training the rebels I’ll our position on the Bahraini issue and preps for some other so do you leadership are efforts to normalize for build up to a different relationship with Iran and the the trip next month’s the President Obama to we are about to meet with His Majesty will be the a a major effort to continue that process so explaining how we need to work together because the the split that to was talked about in October but that there’s going to be a major shift in Shelby policy for meeting away from the United States a that certainly caught the President Obama’s attention and be

realization that what he has been trying to do is perhaps only empowered the region in Damascus and the extremists the among the rebel groups and that is not in the interest of getting to a transitional government and getting to a peaceful solution alright perhaps apart we should keep in mind here mister den slow we talk about how you know if the allies of the Syrian opposition may be mending some fences hit maybe start to think about more sophisticated weaponry being sent to them what about the other side how will the regime react on the ground of course they been conducting a very fierce serb al bombing campaign for a few months they’re not gonna sit idly by are they and watching this what will be their up potential response to this well they’ve not been sitting idly by in fact during the Geneva to process as it has lasted we’ve seen a significant uptick in the use all violence and the use of military attacks in barrel bombs in places like a lap own a natural uptick in there the death toll I think obviously the regime is anxious to take advantage of its momentum that it seems to be slowly winning ground across the country and I think the focus perhaps is on whether this reproach mall between react in washington result in high tech weaponry appearing but I think we have to be careful here because is is actually about diplomatic fences being mended between the two countries around things such as unity vision vis-a-vis al Qaeda is it about a sense of knowing what you don’t want in Syria I E these groups in powered and unleashed this is what you do in a sense of doom winning are you willing to put in the level of military support that perhaps changed the balance on the ground I think guest in in saudi arabia reference that point the idea that the saudis and now but out this decree about prison sentences between three and twenty one years for Nationals the go to fight a broad the fact that they’re supposedly two-and-a-half thousand Saudi foreign fighters in Syria and I think the difference between saudi government policy toward Syria and of course individuals and groups that would winning to put people across and support group in a different way so I think there’s actually a huge amount of questions around walked with this reproach actually mean and we actually certainly result in this is kinda long promised but never seen idea of MANPADS turning up in the hands of Syrian rebels hi I think the difference between discussions on the rebels now in previous years is now the rebels or certain large group of the Syrian opposition are against in fighting on the ground against Al qaeda-linked group so we have almost have this three-way conflict now and I think whereas the Americans are very unclear as to their position vis-a-vis the Syrian opposition are clear with their position vis-a-vis al Qaeda and that is an interesting point mister shipp auction now is the timing all the change in the leadership of the Free Syrian Army the FSA is that all linked to some %uh these factors that we’re talking about now that the geneva peace talks have broken down and there seems to be some rethink of policy amongst the allies of the Syrian opposition of course I think there is a great link between these two events the Syrian free army is looking for some more sophisticated management of its the tactics much better experience much better execution a in preparation I think for some serious arming and some serious intentions to be involved there is a great sense of frustration an almost the spare that the world community has basically let them down on the win increase the pressure to on the regime somehow there is a an interest as I just told you from the government’s and as well as the populations in the Gulf and the other countries to support this know how they will this be executed and apply is gonna be very challenging and interesting but I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination we are seeing the a defeat of the Syrian free army on the hands of the regime which has been reported left but I consider that the been gaining grounds and almost getting ready to finalize everything this is far from the truth and talk about challenges for the Free Syrian Army mister Denslow even if the new leader of the FSA Colonel Abdullah al Bashir even if he tightens the command structure of the network of groups that we call the FSA the most powerful factions on the ground in Syria aren’t part of the FSA not even part to the Supreme Military Council in fact some of them recently left the Supreme Military Council in joint another rival network called the Islamic Front that’s a bit of a challenge for the effectiveness of the FSA is net it is but in a conflict where proxy powers are supporting

different allies if you will the idea of the Unity externally could have course try and mend some %uh that faction is an on-the-ground sensitive different country supporting different groups you could have as as we discussed this unity of effort unity understanding of priorities the could suddenly bring together in a far more effective in cohesive manner these different groups that have struggled over the last three years to cohere both tactically on the ground and in terms of their relations with external powers so I would say again that the test of this new could have alliance between opposition backers is in how it then transforms either groups on the grounds loyalties and of course the point about what technology what military resources and assets there suddenly given alright mister shipp book Shia before the syrian peace talks even ended we did have statements from some Gulf countries like cutters for mister speak about the possibility all the UN Security Council in intervention do you think that’s a real possibility the Gulf states I think about taking this issue back to the security council obviously it has not been so because there is not a unified stand within the United a nations the security council particularly from russia russia has refused to put any resolution on the table within the Security Council that with by any stretch of the imagination reduce the sovereignty of the Assad regime on the ground and that’s practically what would happen in this case I could bring ambassador murphy back into the discussion now we talk about factions of the Syrian opposition has the United States resolved its policy entirely as to what factions it’s willing to do business with and we know there is all the question what faction they’re not willing to do business with those factions the few that are linked to al-qaeda but when it comes to who the US can do business with is that crystallized for the US I think it’s its the other is clear today that it has been this is a constant process so consulting developing a better richer understanding well the opposition our efforts to bring a since a political unity among opposition elements has been just as complicated as trying to get the rebel elements within Syria the fighters together in a under a single or at least a better coordinated operation the russians to take an easy course we’re going to deal with the regime if the regime is change by the will love the Syrian people will do with that new regime which as minute they’re just continuing their arms supply and support to the status quo I think you know mention was just made at the United Nations a is a vote today I think it’s going to finally be held today on a resolution on the humanitarian side how to remove a economic the medical system supplies to the civilian population they have been suffering enormously it’s not getting any better and a if Russia blocks this with a few for the veto a I think better that show will stimulate her an acceleration in the American Planning to move on the military side let’s call it because a this cannot continue where a indifference difference okay to international practice that the regime the sovereign power can’t say how its borders will be respected attacked is is that there is responsibility international responsibility to protect populations under severe pressure another has not been applied to the Syrian case yet now as the den so that’s that some have read some signal shall we say on the possibility a better cooperation among Security Council powers when it comes to Syria least on the issue of humanitarian aid DC that as a real positive development that could lead to perhaps bigger things on on more than simply getting aid into Syria when it comes to the security council was hard to tell I think that there’s I’ll a high likelihood today that this resolution will pass and we will find ourselves I with a with two UN Security Council resolutions on Syria one on chemical weapons getting out someone on humanitarian aid getting in but of course the proof will ultimately be in its implementation whether the sieges that are currently affecting tens of thousands of Syrians on the ground will be lifted where that the United Nations and its agencies will be allowed to cross borders where previously it hasn’t whether the 9.3 million Syrians who are dependent on humanitarian aid today receive that I think at planetary native course addressing a symptom of a conflict not the cause but if you can agree on that

and I think the system’s that are accountable for international norms I have a real problem and i think thats having the Russians and Americans on board as they have been on Geneva has a certain process a certain track a if another veto another double veto occurs i think is every likelihood that people will be looking again to questions old unilateral action or different groups taking action cells rather than through international for ambassador murphy some say that what happens in the security council and the dynamical what’s happening between Russia on the one hand for example the summer the other Western powers is linked to the vet other developments may be ukraine how do you see that dynamic I think that the Russian motivation the in its support for PSS regime a is berry sure on several grounds that it considers serious looked at alternatives perhaps in it sees no leadership able to put down the extreme Islamists is the like to call them the terrorist no one’s better equipped than the regime and the regime is there the russia’s going to work with that now is this part of the russian campaign to a rich to were Russian influence to the region it’s a possibility a but I think that the rusher rooms it didn’t have to for the year situation the ukraine to change Russian thinking about Syria its supporters been Bajur ca understand unyielding for the regime and our efforts to persuade it chin think about a transitional government help it’s simply not succeeded they say we are naive those who would argue that a transitional government will be ok they say that’s just a way of helping the terrorist by delaying a the end up lady im so or I think they’re procedure do that we’re thinking in rusher they may be a certainly upset today about developments in the Ukraine but to their policy on Syria has been for and on you going over the past you here mister chabot Shia while we talk about big politics we should have course keep in mind its it’s the average Syrian who suffers a lot of people killed a lot of people displaced and according to UN reports you know both sides have made mistakes but the majority of the suffering inflicted by the Syrian regime now all throughout this you could say we’ve been here before where regional actors have been keen to supply more weapons better weapons to the opposition to finish the regime but the assumption has always been that hasn’t happened will not happen unless there is a green light from the US do you see that assumption changing going forward no I don’t and I think a that has not been clearly signal from the state’s that it is willing to go all the way to remove a nasa it has provided some important lip service but unfortunately that lip service was very taxing because it basically K I said the green light to go for once in the Americans clearly said that he is not he has lost his legitimacy and then he has crossed the red line nothing PD took place to penalize him he got away with murder yes there was an attempt to take away their weapons from him but there was no punishment to the commitment that is a very dangerous dual message that the americans are sending we will take away the weapon but we will not punish you for the crime can imagine what my question is what do you think the do you think I’ll countries will continue to wait for that american green light before they they go ahead on their own accord and try and supply better or more sophisticated weapons well I think they are doing this somehow but doing to take it a step further is gonna really a become costly to these countries because if they will be falling I against the Americans themselves in this case it’s a very delicate diplomatic and political price to pay all right let’s think I guess cuz we are running out of time mister chabot she ambassador murphy and mister dense I thank you all for joining us on this edition up inside Syria that’s it for this edition of inside Syria thanks for joining us see you next week