There is news and then there is NEWS…..over the weekend there was some major news only it has been shuffled to the background thanx to the antics of the political process and the political games….
Syria has been a mess for years….everyone fighting everyone else to the point that it is more confusing than a plot on Reality TV……but through all this death and destruction a small ray of hope has broken through……
Russia and the US announced plans for a ceasefire in the five-year Syrian civil war Friday, CNN reports. Under the agreement—which both the Syrian government and opposition groups have tentatively agreed to—calls for an end to hostilities starting at sundown on Monday. Secretary of State John Kerry says the “bedrock of the agreement” is the government’s cessation of air force missions in any areas occupied by rebel groups. “That should put an end to…the indiscriminate bombing of civilian neighborhoods,” Kerry says. According to the AP, Kerry calls the ceasefire a possible “turning point” in the war that has killed more than 500,000 people.
The announcement came after “intensive” talks in Geneva, the BBC reports. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave journalists waiting for the end of 13 hours of negotiations pizza “from the US delegation” and vodka “from the Russian delegation.” The ceasefire will allow the UN to deliver humanitarian aid to hard-hit areas, including Aleppo, where nearly 700 civilians—160 of them children—have been killed in the past 40 days. If the ceasefire lasts a week, the US and Russia will start planning joint military operations against al Qaeda and ISIS fighters in Syria. But such ceasefire agreements have failed in the past. “We think [the arrangement] has the capability of sticking, but it’s dependent on people’s choices,” Kerry says. “It is an opportunity and not more than that.”
Beginning sundown today……A nationwide cease-fire by Assad’s forces and the U.S.-backed opposition is set to begin across Syria at sundown Monday. That sets off a seven-day period that will allow for humanitarian aid and civilian traffic into Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and commercial capital, which has faced a recent onslaught.
Fighting forces are to also pull back from the Castello Road, a key thoroughfare and access route into Aleppo, and create a “demilitarized zone” around it.
Also Monday, the United States and Russia will begin preparations for the creation of a Joint Implementation Center that will involve information sharing needed to define areas controlled by the radical Nusra Front and opposition groups in areas “of active hostilities.”
The center is expected to be established a week later, and is to launch a broader effort toward delineating other territories in control of various groups.
As part of the arrangement, Russia is expected to keep Syrian air force planes from bombing areas controlled by the opposition. The United States has committed to help weaken the Nusra Front, an extremist group that has intermingled with the U.S.-backed opposition in places.
A resumption of political dialogue between the government and opposition under U.N. mediation, which was halted amid an upsurge in fighting in April, will be sought over the longer term.
Now the part that should the blogs in multiple directions is the fact that US and Russia are working in partnership (for now)……..
The United States and Russia working in lockstep against ISIS and al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. A rejuvenated truce that will compel President Bashar Assad’s air and ground forces to pull back. New flows of badly needed humanitarian aid. Those details emerged Saturday as US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov capped another marathon meeting in Geneva to present their latest ambitious push to end Syria’s devastating and complex war, the AP reports. The potential breakthrough deal, which promises a new US-Russian counterterrorism alliance, launches a nationwide cessation of hostilities by sundown Monday.
The military deal would go into effect after both sides abide by the truce for a week and allow unimpeded humanitarian deliveries. Then, the US and Russia would begin intelligence sharing and targeting coordination, while Assad’s air and ground forces would no longer be permitted to target Fath al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front; they would be restricted to operations against ISIS while the US and Russia target both groups. The deal will hinge on compliance by Assad’s Russian-backed forces and US-supported rebel groups, plus key regional powers such as Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia—though as with previous blueprints for peace, Saturday’s plan appears to lack enforcement mechanisms.
What could possibly go wrong (he asked smilingly)……
What are the chances of success with this effort? Now there is a good question.
In order to evaluate the value of the Kerry-Lavrov effort, we only have the patterns of previously exerted efforts, conducted separately or in a minimum de-confliction mode, to assess the extent of the individual impact of each power, then proceed to explore the potential impact of both combined.
In the case of Russia, its recent intensive air raids around Aleppo and Hama have not achieved their purpose on either front. The armed opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra, has made very impressive progress on both battle fields.
In the case of the US, the state of play in northern Syria shows a very limited ability to influence the dynamics of the on-the-ground-course of the fight: Turkey’s incursion – the defection of hundreds of Arab Syrian fighters from the US-backed, predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to join the Turkish-assisted opposition west of the Euphrates – previous failed US attempts to train Syrian forces in order to set them up against terrorist forces – these are but a few examples of a long list of trials and failures for US involvement in Syria.
Therefore, it is safe to say that Russia’s heavy bombardment plus Assad’s and Iran’s repeated offensives on multiple fronts have not reversed the dynamics on the ground in any substantial way. The US has not fared any better. Neither have its attempts to train forces, play the SDF off pro-Turkish forces, and other shallow and similar tactics changed the dynamics.
Considering such a dismal record for the two powers on the ground, independently, it is only natural to review whether together they can achieve any degree of success in fighting terrorism jointly. In other words, we must return to examining the link between the two powers, either working together or alone, on the one hand, and the course of the actual conflict on the ground as it progresses.
Time will tell if this will be a successful endeavor……my guess is there are too many players with too many goals for it to be successful…..and I hope I am mistaken.
But am I?
One group has already rejected the truce……
An influential Syrian rebel group, the hardline Islamist Ahrar al-Sham, on Sunday rejected the truce deal brokered by Russia and the United States hours before it was due to begin.
A high-ranking member of the group, which works closely with former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front, said in a statement on YouTube that the deal would only serve to “reinforce” the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and “increase the suffering” of civilians
Not a good start, huh?