Only close cooperation between the United States and Russia can end the “terrible tragedy” in Syria, says Lakhdar Brahimi, the highly respected international mediator in the Middle East for more than two decades.
Brahimi, who led United Nations missions in Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq before becoming the special joint envoy of the Arab League and the UN on peace efforts in Syria from 2012 to 2014, adds that Russian and American diplomats have in fact been working cooperatively for several years, but they have not been helped by Western intelligence agencies and politicians who continue to insist that President Bashar al-Assad will certainly fall sooner or later, contrary to realities on the ground. He calls their analysis and influence “utterly condemnable.”
Brahimi, also the author of monumental report in 2000 on the shortcomings of UN peacekeeping, spoke in an interview on March 14 as a tenuous cease-fire continued in Syria. He touched on the wider context of the crisis, including his work with two US secretaries of state, the advantages Russia built up over the years in Syria beyond military ties, the “sophisticated and nuanced” superiority of Moscow’s diplomats in the region, and the fatal mistakes or miscalculations of President Bashar al-Assad that caused the deaths of many thousands of Syrian civilians, drove many thousands more into exile, and alienated most of those who survive. He was speaking in a telephone conversation from Cornell University, where he is the first international practitioner-in-residence at the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.
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