Op-Ed: Geneva 2 peace conference may be prelude to a new war in Syria

Posted Dec 4, 2013 by Ken Hanly
New Geneva 2 peace talks are planned for January 22 to forge an agreement between rebels and the Assad regime that would form a transitional government and lead to a political settlement of the Syrian war.
Free Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons as they gather in al-Jarba area near the fifth bridge ...
Free Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons as they gather in al-Jarba area near the fifth bridge area on Damascus International Airport Road November 24, 2013.
With permission by Reuters / Msallam Abd Albaset
General Salim Idris, commander of the Free Syrian Army has dropped his demand that President Bashar Assad resign as a condition for talks to begin. In a telephone interview December 2 that the Assad regime should agree to confidence-building measures including a humanitarian relief corridors to besieged areas. Idris said that Assad's departure could come at the end of the negotiations. Monzer Akbik a spokesperson for the Syrian Opposition Council a political branch of the opposition agreed with Salim's position.
If there is an agreement in Geneva, it could lead to a new war with Assad forces joining with the Free Syrian army groups against Al Qaeda linked groups such as the Jabhat al-Nusra Front and the Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) also known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.) General Idris said that he is already fighting a war on two fronts against Assad and Al Qaeda-linked groups. AQI or ISIS is already said to have 5,500 foreign fighters in Syria who are trying to dominate the northwest area of Iraq that is controlled by rebels. The Washington Post is among the sources that suggest that a peace settlement may be used to create a united front against Al Qaeda-linked rebels: As al-Qaeda grows more powerful in Syria — seeking “complete control over the liberated areas,” according to a new Syrian rebel intelligence report — moderate opposition leaders are voicing new interest in a political settlement of the grinding civil war. But a peace agreement may just be a prelude to a new war against the terrorists.
The CIA is reported to be training about 200 fighters per month for the FSA although General Idriss refuses to acknowledge this. Idriss claims the FSA has already fought with Al Qaeda-linked rebels at 24 locations during the last six months.
Any attempt to try to turn the battle against radical Islamic rebels rather than Assad may actually backfire. More rebel groups may simply decide to join with radical Islamists against groups such as the FSA who they will consider foreign-controlled and interested more in the fight against terrorism than a fight against Assad. Already many rebel groups are distancing themselves from the FSA to form Islamic fronts although some exclude the two Al-Qaeda-linked groups. The situation is complicated however as shown in this article. The rebels on the ground are often alienated from the political figures backed by the west who will represent them at the peace conference. Radical rebel groups that have been effective in fighting against Assad will not be represented at the conference, not that they want to be anyway.