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Syria: The Hope and Challenges of Mediation

The civil war in Syria continues to devastate social and political structures, precipitating floods of refugees and surging populations of internally displaced people. Syria has degenerated into sectarian- and ethnic-based warring mini-states vying for power as their country faces utter social disorder. It mass-produces a growing cadre of battle hardened foreign and domestic jihadists affiliated with the various al-Qaeda brands. The war weariness of America and the unmanageable chaos in Syria combine to create shifts in regional politics. This article seeks to put into perspective the crucial role that regional mediation can play in nudging along practical solutions. Without regional commitment and coordination among key Middle Eastern powers, namely Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, international diplomatic efforts to restore order and stability in Syria are not likely to succeed.

Syria The Hope and Challenges of Mediation
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu shake hands with foreign senior diplomats and officials prior to a meeting on May 4, 2014 at northern Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp. AFP / Khalil Mazraawi


The persistence of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria has thus far been reinforced by a multitude of factors, including disorganized opposition factions, the diplomatic, military, and logistical support of Iran and Russia, as well as the cohesive nature of its state, which has survived three years of civil war.1 Many argue that alternatives to Assad’s rule are complicated and ominous. The breakup of the country, for example, would hold grave implications for the region as a whole. The status of the Free Syrian Army as the main opposition force has been eclipsed by the rise of more militant Islamist groups.2 International attempts to push for peaceful regime change have proven disappointing. The model of NATO’s humanitarian intervention in Libya illustrates a poor strategy for security and ineffective mechanisms for democratization. The new Libyan government has failed to bring the militias that arose during the revolt against the previous regime under control. This failure has led to fatal turf battles between rival tribes and commanders, creating ungoverned spaces in which radical Islamists flourish.3 These radical groups have effectively forged a bloc with the Libya’s interim parliament (General National Congress—GNC), which approved a new government, led by Prime Minister Ahmed Mitig, in a controversial vote on May 25, 2014. This development is certain to further deepen the country’s political and security crisis. International involvement in Syria does not promise to generate better results than it did in Libya.

International attempts to push for peaceful regime change have proven disappointing in Syria

The so-

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