Charles Glass

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It was scheduled to start over a week ago. Then last Wednesday. Now tomorrow . When round three of the Geneva peace talks on Syria begins, it could be Groundhog Day for Syrians. If the actors read from the script they used at the previous UN-sponsored negotiations – Geneva I in 2012 and Geneva II in 2014 – the last act will be the same: a failure.

The conference, like the current ceasefire, which began on 27 February, is taking place because the United States and Russia want it to. At last they seem to agree that the stumbling block to the last two sessions – the fate of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad – is not important enough to prolong the war.…  Seguir leyendo »

The militants of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (Isil) have murdered another western captive, Alan Henning. Henning, like his fellow humanitarian worker David Haines, had gone to Syria out of compassion for its people in the midst of a vicious civil war. His sympathy and bravery did not matter to Isil anymore than the pleas for mercy by the Henning and Haines families. Isil beheaded both men as it did the American journalists James Foley and David Sotloff, and it is threatening to do to the same to American aid worker Peter Kassig. The western world appears to be powerless to protect any of these captives.…  Seguir leyendo »

This is a bad time to be a Syrian. Will the two sides tearing your country apart meet in Geneva to end the war? Is either side deploying chemical weapons? Is anyone willing to give up the baby before Solomon's sword falls?

What are your options? You can join the revolt, which may involve you in the crimes of murder, kidnapping, pillage and rape. It will mean killing other Syrians, in and out of army uniform. If the army captures you, you are as good as dead. You can join the army, but you'll bomb and ravage cities and villages. Those you take prisoner will be tortured or killed by the security services.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russia and Iran are providing weapons and ammunition to Syria's President Assad, while Saudi Arabia and Qatar deliver arms through Turkey to his opponents. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has just announced that the US is increasing its non-lethal assistance to the rebels by a further $60m. Britain is asking the EU to lift its embargo on arms sales to the opposition.

None of this seems designed to end a conflict that, for a moment, seemed to be heading hesitantly towards negotiation. Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, leader of the Syrian National Coalition, offered last month to discuss a settlement without demanding Assad's resignation.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the past week, Syrian opposition groups have issued two contrasting appeals to the international community. On Saturday 28 July, the Syrian National Council demanded new and better weaponry for the insurgents battling the Bashar al-Assad regime. "We want weapons that would stop tanks and jet fighters," SNC chief Abdul-Basset Sieda told a news conference in Abu Dhabi. Two days earlier, at the Community of Sant'Egidio in Rome, representatives of 10 opposition organisations asked the world to assist Syria in another way: forcing both sides to reach a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Their joint statement concluded: "We cannot accept Syria being transformed into a theatre of regional and international conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the elegant and incisive style that characterizes all of his writing, James Carroll set out in these pages (“The wandering Jew and the mad Saracen,” Views, Aug. 12) the theological genesis of the dispute in Israel-Palestine. Mr. Carroll presented a compelling vision of Christian religious prejudice against both Jews and Muslims that he believes informs this seemingly intractable conflict. Christian insistence from St. Augustine onward that “Jewish exile was a matter of theological proof,” he wrote, animates Christian hostility to Zionism.

“As the Israeli-Palestinian dispute has continued, international sympathy for the besieged Palestinian population has intensified, but something else than genuine feeling for the downtrodden is at work,” Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »