"It is only when people tire of slaughtering their neighbors and eating them, and others are in turn tired of being slaughtered by their neighbors and being eaten, that they are ready to sit down and talk about peace."
That's a great quote from a Lee Smith column on Kerry and the Syrian Civil War and while I don't agree entirely with his conclusions, weakening the Saudis might be bad for our economy in the short term, but good in the long term, there are some great quotes to take away from it.
Kerry wants to convene an intra-Syrian peace conference, in tandem with Russia, sometime in June—with the goal of putting representatives of Bashar al-Assad’s regime together at the same table with the opposition forces determined to topple him. Since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011, more than 70,000 people have been killed, according to conservative estimates. To spectators in the balcony seats, the nauseating extent of the bloodshed might signal that the Syrians have had enough of death and want to get back to their lives.
But there are other, perhaps more instructive metrics. Last week, a video was released showing a rebel commander named Abu Sakkar eating what he believed to be the heart—it was actually the lung—of a regime loyalist. This gesture, apparently the first recorded act of ritual cannibalism in the Syrian civil war, suggests that the country’s sectarian furies are only now starting to reach a fever pitch—one that may well burn for many years to come. It is only when people tire of slaughtering their neighbors and eating them, and others are in turn tired of being slaughtered by their neighbors and being eaten, that they are ready to sit down and talk about peace.
But here's the thing, how often does any Muslim group in the Middle East really tire of killing? Egypt made peace with Israel more for financial and geopolitical reasons than because it was really tired of killing. The appetite in Egypt for another war never seems to have abated. It's one reason that the Muslim Brotherhood is in power now.
The weaker Shiite side in the Syrian Civil War, consisting of Assad and Hezbollah, do want the war to end, because their resources are limited. Iran however may have another agenda and might conceivably have bigger plans for turning what's left of Syria into being run by some local equivalent of Hezbollah.
But on the Sunni side there is no similar worry. Turkey and Qatar, the biggest backers of the Sunni Jihadist forces, have felt very little in the way of blowback. Turkey got a few pinpricks. Qatar's bank account balance dipped a little bit.
As in Israel, the state sponsors of terror are insulated from the terror they spread. The cannibalism is not likely to come to Doha or Istanbul. If it did, perhaps Erdogan might turn into a genuine moderate, instead of a firebreathing radical whom everyone in the diplomatic class has agreed to pretend is a moderate.
Syria is getting the same treatment that Israel has gotten over the years. The irony is that Syria used to dole out the treatment to Israel and to the United States in Iraq. Now it's on the receiving end.
The question then is who is going to make peace? The Al Qaeda groups certainly won't. Turkey and Qatar don't seem enthusiastic. That pins all of Kerry's hopes on the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood might conceivably be willing to make a deal with Assad, but only if the deal allows it to eventually take over Syria. And Assad isn't likely to allow that. And he's no longer as desperate as he was a few months ago.
The Brotherhood is more local than some of the Al Qaeda groups, so it does have interests on the ground. It's not inconceivable that it could cut a good deal, but the fighting would still go on. And Assad isn't Peres. He isn't going to let the kind of good terrorist-bad terrorist scam be pulled on him. And that means a peace treaty will just lead to another war.
The real issue is the appetite for violence. It's a unique appetite because it is rooted in religion... explicitly so in the case of a Sunni-Shiite holy war.
The question then is when will Islam get tired of its worshipers killing each other? Historically the answer may be never.