With the recent Geneva II conference and current diplomatic efforts to mitigate humanitarian suffering in the city of Homs, the question arises whether reconciliation among the warring parties in the Syrian Civil War is viable.
The Syrian reconciliation process is the topic of the Vienna based conference ‘The Syrian Conflict and the Promotion of Reconciliation and its Implications for International Security’. Main problems hampering reconciliation within Syria are the internal division of the opposition – complicating negotiations between the regime and ‘the’ opposition – and the increasing influence of the Salafi-Jihadist groups.
Although the Salafi-Jihadist groups agree on the end goal – to create a society based on the (Muslim) past –, they differ on how to achieve that aim. Kamal al-Labwani, a distinguished member of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, differentiates three categories among Salafi-Jihadist groups: 1. those that act with society, such as the Islamic Front; 2. those that act apart of society, such as Jabhat an-Nusra; and 3. those that act against society, like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Especially the acts of ISIS, in an action-reaction escalation process with regime forces, may lead to what can be named ‘genocidal warfare’. Genocidal warfare is characterized by mass killings of (perceived) enemies. This existential sectarian struggle between ethnic and religious groups in Syria is reminiscent of similar earlier regional conflicts in Lebanon and Iraq. These both lasted more than a decade and had hundreds of thousands of victims.
These regional examples aligned with an increasingly violent struggle within the country make that reconciliation in Syria appears more distant than ever. Despite the Geneva initiatives and the hope of humanitarian relief – now that the regime allows women and children to leave the besieged city of Homs –, the situation in both Lebanon and Iraq does not bode well for the future of Syria.