Syria's Peace Talks: A Complicated Patchwork

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Syrian emergency personnel are seen exstinguishing a fire at the scene of a reported airstrike by government forces in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on January 21, 2014.
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This week in Switzerland, delegates from 30-some countries have turned up to discuss how to bring the Syrian conflict to an end. But understanding where Syria stands today requires a look back in history—to the start of the Assad family's rule over Syria, beginning with Hafez al-Assad, Bashar al-Assad's father.

Hafez seized power in Syria in 1970, ruled Syria with a tight fist and one-party, one-man rule. He moved quickly to crush political opposition, and in 1982 carried out the brutal Hama massacre. 

Today, as delegates from around the world attempt to find a diplomatic solution to the violence in Syria, the memories of Hafez remain, as well as the legacy of the Assad family.

Central to the conference is the question of how the international community should deal with President Bashar al-Assad, particularly as the evidence of war crimes continues to mount

Bente Scheller, author of "The Wisdom of Syria's Waiting Game: Foreign Policy Under the Assads," puts these talks into historical context.

Whether or not these peace talks yield any solution, the discussions in Switzerland lay down an important milestone—it is the first time the opposition in Syria has formerly talked with the representatives from the Assad regime since the bloody conflict began three years ago.

But one delegation is notably absent from the talks—a group that, not so long ago, was a key faction in the Syrian opposition: The Islamic State in Syria (ISIS), an Al Qaeda affiliated rebel group that controls most of North East Syria.

ISIS and the Free Syrian Army were once on the same side and had the same mission—but all of that has recently changed.

Marine Olivesi, a freelance reporter for PRI's The World, has been covering the region and the deep divisions within the rebel group. She explores why the Free Syrian Army is also taking on the Islamic State in Syria and no longer fighting with just Bashar al-Assad.