Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 06/2014

Avoiding Assad's Forced Solution to the Syria Crisis

Andrew J. Tabler

January 2014

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy


The UN retraction of Iran's invitation to this week's Syria peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland, does little if anything to change the Assad regime's approach to those talks. President Bashar al-Assad's statements in recent days indicate that he and his backers are attempting to pressure the United States and the rest of the "London 11" countries supporting the opposition at the conference -- Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. In particular, Damascus hopes to change the framework of the talks from arranging a genuine transition to accepting a forced settlement centered on Assad's upcoming "reelection" for a third seven-year term, which will not take place for at least four months (his current term ends on July 7). Since little is likely to be accomplished at this week's talks, Washington should concentrate on steps the United States and its allies can take regardless of how the talks go, especially in terms of delivering humanitarian assistance to besieged areas and strengthening the moderate Syrian opposition through promotion of local elections.