Political compacts are usually the result of a compromise between two different parties. They are usually drafted to express a new balance of power on the ground and a common desire to end conflict at the negotiation table.
The document produced at the recent Geneva meeting [June 30, 2012] is no exception to this rule. However, ambiguities in its wording make it more difficult to implement the political framework toward any specific goal.
The document is not the result of pressure coming out of Syria. Neither the regime's fatigue nor the opposition's was a direct cause of the meeting. As a matter of fact, both parties still believe that they can win the battle and impose their own conditions on a deal, regardless of the varying degrees of enthusiasm and confidence that they may express. Therefore, they both think that finding a negotiated solution is impossible — at least for now. This is the only common denominator between them, and that can never be expressed in any political text, no matter the language.
Participants in the Geneva conference may have deliberately set a one-year deadline for the implementation of their document with the aim of placing indirect pressure on both the regime and the opposition simultaneously. The participants are informing them that the international community has done all it can to find a solution, stop the massacres or end the crisis. This crisis can no longer handle adjustments and compromises, and there will most certainly be no commitments to the 12-month deadline in order to resolve the conflict, neither on the part of the regime or the opposition.
Since the Geneva conference merely set a deadline that ensures the continuation of the conflict, not its end, the US, European, Russian and Turkish positions will continue to change gradually, and we can continue to measure minute shifts. These parties’ positions are not based on Cold War experiences, as some dreamers may believe. What’s more, they do not yet reflect the fundamental contradictions between the different parties — Washington, Moscow and their respective allies. They haven’t even yet disagreed over the shape of an international military intervention, as this has yet to be put forward as an option. And there haven’t been any real disagreements over a political solution to the crisis because all players already have an idea of what such a solution would look like.
Perhaps the most prominent and important political change out of the conference in Geneva has come from the Russians, who have made a major step forward; they joined the West and began questioning the legitimacy of the Syrian regime and its representativeness, the credibility of the elections it conducted and the governments and local councils it formed during the last 16 months.
This is the essence of the document, which embodies an unprecedented international consensus and calls for the re-formation of the Syrian state and its institutions. This document is stronger than all of the other reports as Moscow agreed on the text after the West conceded in taking out the idea of President Assad's resignation. This concession to not seek his resignation was not included in earlier versions of the document.
In short, the document is the beginning of a new phase in the Syrian crisis. This one will be bloodier than anything seen yet, but too dangerous to rage for another long year.