As Syrian peace talks in Geneva continue for a second day, following a disappointing first round of talks in January, word leaders don't see a way out of this disastrous civil war.
President Barack Obama said the talks are "far from achieving" a peaceful resolution, adding in a statement on Tuesday:
With each passing day, more people inside of Syria are suffering. The state of Syria itself is crumbling. That is bad for Syria. It is bad for the region. It is bad for global national security, because what we know is, is that there are extremists who have moved into the vacuum in certain portions of Syria in a way that could threaten us over the long term.
Obama added that the U.S. is still not considering a military solution, but that "the situation's fluid, and we are continuing to explore every possible avenue," as everyone has long forgotten about the pledge to retaliate for the Assad regime's alleged chemical weapons attacks.
It took roughly 18 months to organize the peace talks, and Western leaders have pegged their hopes on the negotiations to help end Syria's civil war, which National Intelligence Director James Clapper called an "apocalyptic disaster."
Since it began in March 2011, the revolution-turned-sectarian blood bath has claimed more than 110,000 lives, though the actual number of dead is likely quite higher. Millions more have been wounded, displaced from their homes, or both.
Since then, the opposition has splintered into several discrete groups, many of them Islamist militants supported by foreign organizations, and the dispute has spilled into the neighboring countries Turkey and Lebanon. Assad is suspected of having unleashed a chemical strike that killed more than 1,000 civilians and, and recent evidence suggests his army could be guilty of war crimes. About 2.2 million Syrian refugees have been displaced, half of them children.
This round of negotiations is running into the same problems that made it so difficult to plan in the first place, including a major lack of cooperation from Russia. The Kremlin, a steadfast supporter of Assad, has consistently opposed any measure by the U.N. Security Council that places blame on the Syrian president. In the past, this has meant making sure that Assad's removal from power is off the table. Most recently, it has meant promising to block a U.N. Security Council draft resolving to send aid to the country, where residents of besieged cities are running out of food.
Reuters explains the pattern of Russian opposition:
"Our Western partners in the Security Council ... proposed that we cooperate in working out a resolution. The ideas they shared with us were absolutely one-sided and detached from reality," the Interfax news agency quoted [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov as saying after talks with Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra.... Lavrov said Russia, which has used its veto power in the Security Council to block three Western-backed resolutions aimed to increase pressure on Syria's government during the three-year-old conflict, would be ready to consider a draft only if it was "not about one-sided accusations aimed at the regime."
In addition to Russia's refusal to sign the draft resolution the talks are being held up by Assad's attempt to divert the conversation from aiming towards peace to defending against so-called terrorists:
President Bashar al-Assad's government describes all of those fighting to oust him as terrorists and has pushed for efforts to combat "terrorism" to be the main focus of peace talks in Geneva... President Bashar al-Assad's government describes all of those fighting to oust him as terrorists and has pushed for efforts to combat "terrorism" to be the main focus of peace talks in Geneva.
The first round of talks resulted in an effort to remove civilians from rebel-held Homs, and succeeded in brokering a truce to allow their removal. If the aid resolution fails, even efforts like these could be futile.