Investigative historian Eric Zuesse believes the key issues are being negotiated at the Syrian Peace Talks that resumed on February 23rd in Geneva, are constitutional in nature: whether Syria is to be governed under Sharia (or Quran-based) law, or whether instead it is to be a multi-ethnic democracy.
The Sharia-law side is supported by the United States, Turkey, and the Arabic royal families, who own Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Oman, all of which royal families are fundamentalist Sunnis. The multi-ethnic democracy side is supported by Bashar al-Assad, Russia, and Iran.
All polling of the Syrian people, even during the current war and even performed by Western polling firms, shows a strong preference by the Syrians for a multi-ethnic, entirely non-sectarian, democracy. Moreover, when questioned as to whether they believe this still to be possible for Syria, solid majorities of the Syrian people respond in the affirmative. Generally speaking, they blame, above all, the United States government, as being behind the influx of tens of thousands of jihadists from around the world into Syria to overthrow and replace the Assad government.
(In recent years, those findings by the main polling-firm, WIN/Gallup, can be seen here:
Syrians are the most secular nation in the entire Middle East. The effort by the U.S. and its allies to impose a jihadist government there is not popular with the Syrian people.
In preparation for the current round of U.N.-sponsored Syrian Peace Talks, there was a preliminary peace conference in Astana Kazakhstan, in which the participants were Russia, Iran, Turkey, and Syria; and it produced a strong statement in favor of a multi-ethic, multi-religious, democracy in Syria.
Russia produced there, for future consideration by the Syrian people, a draft Constitution of that type, to be discussed and ultimately voted on by the Syrians. Perhaps that’s because Russia is the only one of these three whose own government and Constitution is entirely secular. Thus, too, Turkey’s key agent at the current Geneva talks, Mohamed Sabra, was reported, back on 17 November 2016 (two months after the U.S. had ended its participation in Syria’s peace process) to have — as Egypt’s Al-Ahram put it — especially criticized Russia’s proposals for “trying to isolate Islamic groups that disagree with the principles of a democratic and secular state, and thus exclude them from the political process. ‘This will lead to a realignment of forces, change the essence of the military conflict in Syria, and sow the seeds of civil war in the country,’ Sabra remarked.” Assuming that Egypt’s main newspaper was accurately paraphrasing and translating what the chief negotiator for the U.S.-and-Sunni alliance actually said, Russia was being criticized there for insisting that what follows after Syria’s war must be controlled entirely by the people of Syria, and not by anyone outside the country — Sabra, the chief negotiator for the U.S.-Sunni alliance, actually was speaking publicly there, against commitment to “the principles of a democratic and secular state.” It’s actually fitting: twice in one day, the Secretary General of the U.N. had criticized the U.S. position for its opposition to democracy in Syria.