Despite months of effort by diplomats and the international community, the long-awaited Geneva 2 peace conference is in disarray. The opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) – an exiled umbrella organization supported by Western and Gulf states that represents a negligible segment of rebel groups on the ground – has agreed to attend the talks under heavy pressure from their backers. Division runs deep for many within the group who oppose the decision to attend Geneva 2, and the SNC’s presence at the talks are still in question.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s decision to extend an invitation to Iran prompted the SNC to threaten pulling out of the talks if the UN’s invitation to Tehran is not rescinded. Even if the peace talks proceed, the unpleasant prospect that nothing tangible will emerge from them due to irreconcilable differences between the two sides looks like the most plausible outcome.
One of the key obstacles facing the negotiations is the SNC’s lack of legitimacy and its capriciousness, and that its members are mostly exiled Syrian dissidents who are not seen as credible by the fighters on the ground, primarily among Islamist groups that dominate the battlefield. The belief that the SNC can accomplish something meaningful at the negotiating table is cast deeper into doubt by critical assessments from dissenting former members of the group.