Whatever slim chance there was of seeing a breakthrough in the Syrian peace talks in the near future was probably eliminated entirely earlier this week, when lead rebel negotiator Mohammed Alloush decided to take his job and shove it:
Mohammed Alloush, a member of the Saudi-backed rebel group Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam), condemned the international community’s “inability to enforce resolutions, in particular regarding humanitarian issues, [such as] the lifting of sieges, access to aid, the release of prisoners and adherence to the ceasefire”.
Alloush, who had been under pressure from his own military supporters to resign, said in a statement on Facebook on Sunday: “The three rounds of talks were unsuccessful because of the stubbornness of the regime and its continued bombardments and aggression towards the Syrian people.”
Nothing was happening in the talks anyway, so maybe this doesn’t make any difference. But having Alloush as the head of the rebel High Negotiations Committee did have some particular implications for the negotiations. Alloush was one of the few rebel political leaders with any influence among the rebels doing the fighting inside Syria, because he’s done some fighting inside Syria rather than living comparatively comfortably in exile. So replacing him won’t be easy. On the other hand, because Alloush has been a rebel leader on the ground, and especially because he’s been leading a radical Islamist militia (Jaysh al-Islam), the Assad regime sees him as a terrorist and has largely refused to do business with him. So the talks kind of couldn’t live with him, but may not be able to live without him either.
The UN is reportedly asking Bashar al-Assad to allow humanitarian airdrops to several cities besieged by his forces. If he were to acquiesce to this it could be the kind of thing that jump starts the peace process (assuming the rebels can find a new chief negotiator), but that’s a big “if.”