(CSM) Why Syria is (still) different for the West

The US position on Syria’s civil war remains, in public at least, much as it has long been: The end of President Bashar al-Assad’s rule via some sort of negotiated settlement between the rest of his regime and the patchwork of secular Syrians, mainstream Islamists, and jihadis fighting against him.

That’s the premise for a conference the US, France, and Britain have been pushing for in Geneva next month. But recent battlefield gains for Mr. Assad’s forces, a Russian promise of a delivery of advanced air defense systems to the government (which would make a US-led air campaign more dangerous), and a divided political leadership for the opposition all make it appear very unlikely that peace will break out next month in Switzerland.

Put simply, the Syrian opposition has not come together in the way the US had hoped ”“ not in its military composition, which now involves a lot of foreign travelers from a regional Al Qaeda affiliate, nor on the international diplomatic front, which is fraught with infighting and doubt about the worth of a conference far from the battlefield.

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