The CSS Blog Network

Mediation Perspectives: Challenges to the Multi-Track Approach – Insights from Syria

Image courtesy of ColdSmiling/Pixabay

Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry that’s provided by the CSS’ Mediation Support Team and occasional guest authors. Each entry is designed to highlight the utility of mediation approaches in dealing with violent political conflicts. To keep up to date with the Mediation Support Team, you can sign up to their newsletter here.


This blog aims to shed light on some of the challenges facing the multi-track approach to mediation through the example of Syria. The multi-track approach refers to undertaking peacebuilding efforts at different levels and interlinking them where useful in order to reach sustainable peace. The concept has regained attention as numerous states suffering from conflict have failed to maintain long-lasting peace despite signing peace agreements at the national level. However, the implementation of the multi-track approach has rarely been tested through evidence-based research. This piece aims to raise some questions aimed at critically examining its application.

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When Will the Next War Erupt in the Middle East?

Image courtesy of dozemode/pixabay

The article was originally published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) on 4 October 2018.

The signs are ominous—especially in Israel and its neighbours, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. Violence, both actual and rhetorical, has been escalating on all three fronts. Gaza could become the immediate flash point as the Palestinians’ ‘March of Return’, which began on 30 March, intensifies and Israeli retaliation becomes increasingly lethal.

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How Assad Won the Syrian Civil War Before it Began

Image courtesy of watchsmart/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 5 September 2018.

In recent months, many observers of the still-smoldering civil war in Syria have concluded that Bashar al-Assad’s triumph, once unthinkable, now appears inevitable. How did the Syrian regime accomplish such a come-from-behind victory?

Most analysts emphasize how Assad benefited from extensive international support from Russia and Iran, as well as non-state militias like Hezbollah. They also credit Assad’s deft deployment of a divide-and-rule strategy, in which he sought modus vivendis with some opponents—ISIS and Kurdish rebel groups carving out autonomous spaces far from Damascus—while unleashing the full weight of his military strength on moderate Western-backed rebel factions. Yet the most important factor in Assad’s victory was neither his international support nor his wartime strategies; rather, Assad triumphed because Syria’s armed domestic opposition was hopelessly fragmented from the beginning to the closing stages of the conflict.

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The EU’s Challenge with the End of the Syrian War

Image courtesy of Basma/the Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Flickr. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM) on 4 September 2018.

The war in Syria has entered its final stage, one in which diplomacy will dominate military action. The most likely scenario for the end to this conflict—the Syrian government’s victory—creates a set of political risks to the EU: legitimisation of the undemocratic regime in Syria, engagement in highly politicized reconstruction projects that do not contribute to the improvement in living standards of Syrians, and granting Russia political gains without it also accepting adequate responsibility for the fate of Syrian returnees.

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Iran, Russia: What’s at Stake in the Syrian Civil War

Image courtesy of Kremlin.ru. CC BY 4.0.

This article was originally published by Geopolitical Futures (GPF) on 23 May 2018.

The era of foreign intervention in Syria is coming to an end – at least that’s what Russian President Vladimir Putin said when Bashar Assad, Syria’s president, visited Sochi last week. Granted, Putin’s statement was ambiguous – “in connection with the significant victories … of the Syrian army … foreign armed forces will be withdrawn from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic” – but Russia’s Syria envoy clarified the next day that Putin was, in fact, calling on all militaries to vacate the country.

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