While it hasn’t been a major headline story, the push is definitely on for peace talks with the combatants in Syria’s civil war. However, the rebels don’t appear to be in a mood to come to the peace table. The obstacle to any talks is that President Bashar al-Assad says that he will not step down regardless. His departure is the one condition that the rebels demand be met before they will participate. Thus, we have an impasse.

            The British are pushing a conference that includes as many as 11 nations and are pressing for total participation. They recognize that a meeting with only Assad and the rebels will never work. The larger presence of many nations can create a pressure that might arrive at compromises to end the civil war.

At this point, the rebels are loathe to discuss anything except Assad’s departure. Within their camp, there is a wide separation of opinion ranging from the creation of an Islamic state to a far more secular society. With the addition of the Al-Qaeda linked forces as well as the Hezbollah troops, coercion has increased to press for a state functioning like Iran. Of course, the more liberal elements dread such an idea. The extreme Islamic rebels  also refuse to recognize the rebels favored by the West.

Secretary of State John Kerry has been working behind the scenes and recently met with Ahmad Jarba, the head of the Syrian National Coalition but the contents of their communication were not released. However, Kerry is keenly aware of the rebel’s position and knows the rebels will not stop fighting until Assad is gone. His meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has produced the outline of what could be a transitional government. Will this idea fly? It remains questionable.

In the Middle East, citizens hold their grudges for centuries. The first time I came to Israel in 1968, they were still talking about hating the crusaders that came through a thousand years before. The mayhem that the Syrian army has created will be a source of animosity even centuries from now. In their view, the only good Assad is a dead Assad.

Complicating the possibility of talks is that Assad is now in a stronger position than he was just a few months ago. He now has more confidence not to yield at the bargaining table and is talking about running for re-election next year.

Where is all of this going? Maybe nowhere. We must hope some angle will be discovered that produces movement or the killing will continue.

Halloween never seems to quit in Syria.

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