Middle East

Are Syrian peace talks far from reality?

Ambassador John Bolton on the chances President Bashar al-Assad will give up power in any deal


Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby says peace talks aimed at ending the civil war in Syria are scheduled for November 23 in Geneva, Switzerland, but the United Nations envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi says no date has yet been set for the long-delayed conference.

Fox News National Security Analyst KT McFarland asked Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Fox News Contributor John Bolton if there is a real possibility for peace talks in the next few months.

Bolton says there might be optimism for a political deal between embattled President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the rebel forces, but the civil war likely won’t end anytime soon.

“I think every prospect is that the civil war in Syria will continue as far as the eye can see,” said Bolton.

Bolton believes Assad’s regime “has strengthened to some degree,” since a deal was reached to have the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons remove the regime’s chemical weapons stockpiles in exchange for calling off an American-led military strike.  


In the past several weeks, this has “allowed some increase in activity by Syrian army units on the ground,” said Bolton.

The Syrian military “is helping to protect the chemical weapons inspectors and the rebels have been reluctant in those circumstances to end up in a military standoff with U.N. officials,” said Bolton.

Bolton said that the presence of weapons inspectors in Syria has “given him [Assad] some legitimacy.”

The rebels were counting on a military strike against Assad’s regime and support from U.S. troops, which Bolton says hasn’t come.

“They haven’t seen that [American response] and frankly they haven’t seen much delivery on those American weapons that Obama promised over a year ago,” said Bolton.

Bolton says that the U.S. shouldn’t count the rebels out yet. “They [rebels] are definitely on the downhill slope at this point but over the past almost three years now … we seen both sides” go up and down in terms of who has the upper hand.

“I think the long-term prognosis for the opposition is that those elements who you can legitimately describe as pro-democratic, pro-Western are going to wither away,” said Bolton. “The Al-Qaeda, terrorist, jihadist’s element will gain strength.”   

This scenario could make it harder for the U.S.  and its allies to support removing Assad if extremists take the lead over more moderate rebel forces.

Bolton says the chemical weapons deal brokered in September won’t bring both sides to the table but will “prolong the lift this deal has given the Assad regime.”