If a leader is ready for a fight, can there be peace?

Veteran of the U.S. foreign service Ryan C. Crocker says the U.S. should come to grips with the reality that Bashar al-Assad is not going anywhere and they should engage with the Syrian government because that is the 'least worst' option, given the alternative of a country taken over by al-Qaeda. (Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri)


As Syrian civilians continue to pay the price for a brutal civil war, we're taking a different look at the idea of peace today with a former U.S. ambassador to Syria who thinks Bashar Al-Assad is still the best-of-the-worst and a Canadian who says he's learned from Balkan peace efforts that even when you can stop the war, the conflict can rage as a diplomatic insurgency for years.


Pro-Assad demonstrators carry portraits of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in front of the venue
where the Syria peace conference is held. Signs read, "We are all with you". (Reuters/Kinda Makieh)

In Syria, talk of ending the War has done little to stop the Conflict

The first clues the world had that Syria was headed into the abyss came through unverified cell phone video uploaded to social media sites. In a video purporting to show the aftermath of violence in Dara'a, men frantically yell for cars to take the dying and injured to hospital. A young man is seen lying motionless and someone curses the Syrian President, calling him a child murderer.

That was three years ago and since then more evidence of human rights abuse has accumulated. Bashar al-Assad's government stands accused of indiscriminate attacks against schools, hospitals and civilians. Starvation, kidnappings and chemical weapons have helped create the worst refugee crisis in two decades.

This week, ahead of the peace talks now underway in Switzerland, officials in the Hague released a report suggesting there is evidence pointing to systematic killing of as many as 11,000 detainees by the Syrian government.

"Syria isn't Egypt, Tunisia or Libya, because Bashar al- Assad isn't Mubarak, ben Ali or Gaddafi. He's been ready for this fight for more than three decades."

Ryan C. Crocker

But one veteran of the U.S. foreign service believes President al-Assad may be the "least worst option" for Syria.

Ryan C. Crocker has served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon. Today he is dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University and he was in College Station, Texas.

"This conference has to be the start of a process. Of course expectations are quite low. Everybody knows it will be a very, very difficult process and could be a long process. But it is important that it starts and it is important that the spotlight is put on the regime."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague

Like many people involved in the talks this week, British Foreign Secretary William Hague has no illusions about the challenges of bringing peace to Syria.

But according to Philippe Leroux-Martin, there's also the danger of falling in love with the process of getting a peace deal and losing sight of the real goal.

Philippe Leroux-Martin is a Canadian who was on the team that helped implement the Dayton peace accord which ended the Bosnian War. He's now with the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School. His new book is Diplomatic Counterinsurgency: Lessons from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Philippe Leroux-Martin was in Washington.

Yesterday we heard how difficult achieving peace in Syria may be -- particularly after some former war crime prosecutors allege widespread atrocities that may have killed as many as 11,000 Syrian detainees. Here is that segment:

Syria talks peace, amid images of death

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This segment was produced by The Current's Gord Westmacott and Pacinthe Mattar.

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