Low expectations can turn even a meager achievement into something to celebrate. Witness the final communiqué issued at the conclusion of the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland.
The leaders agreed it marked significant progress in dealing with the savage civil war in Syria. Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper, perhaps the most wary among the assembled leaders, declared satisfaction with “a very different outcome … a much better outcome, than I thought we were going to have.”
But will it be enough to make a real difference on the bloody battlefields of Syria? Probably not. Sadly, it’s all that peacemakers have right now.
Before the meeting Harper had frankly and publicly despaired of G8 unity in light of the deep rift between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the other heads of government. …
While scrupulously avoiding mention of Assad, G8 leaders agreed to support a “transitional governing body” for Syria. According to Cameron, there’s no way Assad could sit on such a transitional body, given his crimes, so it amounts to another way of saying that he must go.
Harper agreed with that interpretation. …
The danger is that Russia, and Assad’s ruling party, will use the vagueness inherent in this agreement to delay the peace process. The composition of a transitional government, for example, allows for endless discussion on who should be represented. If, as Cameron said, it would be “unthinkable” for Assad to sit on that body, what about his hand-picked cronies? How clean do any participants’ hands have to be in this most savage of wars?
Even the question of who used chemical weapons against which victims was put over to a United Nations investigating team which is to make a report, at some future date, and deliver it to the UN Security Council for assessment.
Meanwhile Assad’s forces, bolstered by Russian arms shipments and reinforced by thousands of Hezbollah fighters, appear to be making solid gains on the battlefield. Time could very well be on their side. If this G8 agreement only produces more delay, and ultimate victory for Assad, it will go down not as a humanitarian breakthrough but rather a well-intentioned G7 failure — plus a success for one.
The Star, Toronto