Is the United Nations on the verge of a disastrous summer? The organization is always vulnerable to political shocks as it juggles its peacekeeping duties, humanitarian aid and crisis diplomacy. It now faces an especially perilous period as it tries to navigate the wreckage of peacemaking in Syria while launching a potentially flawed peace operation in Mali. U.N. troops are also preparing to mount risky offensives against militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). If the U.N. survives these challenges entirely unscathed, it will be more than just a masterpiece of multilateral crisis management. It will be a miracle.
How might these potential trials unfold? The first shock may come in the ostensibly benign environs of Geneva. U.N. officials are currently hard at work on preparations for the Syrian peace conference proposed by Russia and U.S. last month and to be held in the city sometime over the summer. The Syrian government will take part but hardly takes the talks seriously. The rebels have argued fiercely among themselves over whether to attend, but some of the opposition will probably trudge to Switzerland eventually.
Two outcomes are conceivable. The participants may come to some vague agreement on steps toward a peace deal. This would almost certainly be insincere, but it would still fall to the U.N. to implement it.