- The Washington Times - Monday, December 9, 2013

Upcoming talks to end Syria’s civil war are doomed to fail, according to most of the participants in a “peace game” about the crisis.

A couple of dozen former officials, regional analysts and academics took on the roles of various participants in the conflict and other actors, such as neighboring countries or international organizations, to “game out” peace-deal scenarios ahead of the Geneva peace conference set for next year.

The event was co-hosted by the U.S. Institute of Peace and Foreign Policy magazine. It was underwritten by the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Washington.

Nearly 90 percent of participants and invited observers, when asked to predict the likely outcome of the Geneva talks, voted that they would end with “no agreement.”

The two most frequently cited reasons for pessimism were that the various parties are too entrenched to reach a consensus and that both the regime and the rebels believe they can benefit from continued fighting.

Julianne Smith, a former Obama White House national security staffer, noted that the peace deal in Northern Ireland came about because “both sides were weak.

Organizers said the game’s objective was for officials to make plans for achieving peace “using as much creativity and seriousness as is currently committed to planning for war.”

Foreign Policy magazine Editor-in-Chief David Rothkopf, who convened the game, said detailed planning is more important for peace than for war because “peace is so complex, has so many working parts and indeed often requires a long period of time.”

Mr. Rothkopf said the organizers hope to stage the event twice a year — once in Washington and once in the Middle East. The aim is “to redefine how leaders think about conflict and the possibilities of peace,” he said.

Participants included former Obama administration officials such as first-term State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley and scholars such as Iraq analyst Judith Yaphe.