On 5 June troops loyal to the Assad government in Syria, helped by fighters from the Lebanese Shia-Islamist militia Hezbollah, retook the town of Qusair, 10 km from the Lebanese border.
The same day, Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN and Arab League special envoy for Syria, declared in Geneva the conference on peace in Syria, sponsored by the US and Russia and pencilled for 15-16 June, will not after take place in June.
“We will hold the conference as soon as possible, hopefully in July”, said Brahimi.
The next day, 6 June, David Cameron announced that he would allow a free vote to Tory MPs if the British government moves on from getting the EU to end its embargo on arms to Syria to a decision actually to send arms. Since Labour and Lib-Dems seem to be against sending arms, that makes shipments unlikely any time soon.
According to the Beirut Daily Star, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov declared on 11 June in Beirut that: “If the Geneva conference fails, nothing but one scenario will remain: war and Syria’s complete destruction”.
However, a deal in Geneva seems unlikely. On 6 June Patrick Cockburn, in the London Review of Books, analysed the military balance: “Over the last year a military stalemate has prevailed, with each side launching offensives in the areas where they are strongest. Both sides have had definite but limited successes. In recent weeks government forces have opened up the road that leads west from Homs to the Mediterranean coast and the road from Damascus south to the Jordanian border. They have expanded the territory they hold around the capital and trained a militia of sixty thousand, the National Defence Force, to guard positions once held by the Syrian army...
“Assad isn’t going to win a total victory, but the opposition isn’t anywhere close to overthrowing him either”.
The prospect is of continued civil war in Syria, continued spill-over into increased sectarian tension in neighbouring states, and continued grinding of the opposition into an aggregate of more or less sectarian militias.