What to Expect from New Cessation of Hostilities in Syria

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On September 9, the United States and Russia announced a fresh Syrian ceasefire agreement. Some media already said that they agreed to a joint plan for ending the war in the Arab country. However, until the official text of agreement is not published, it will be premature to make far-reaching conclusions. The basic idea initially promoted by open sources is for the US and Russia to get the so-called “moderate opposition” and the Syrian government to stop fighting each other. So, the US and Russia can start jointly attacking both ISIS and al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria more effectively. Another key part of the deal is to provide humanitarian aid for besieged areas across the country with special attention to Aleppo city.

The separation of “moderate opposition” from terrorists is likely the main soft-spot of the deal. In practice, it means that Ahrar al-Sham, Jaish al-Islam and other groups have to separate from the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) terrorist group. The first problem is that Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam military HQs and local commanders are deeply integrated into Fatah al-Sham’s military structure. This is why the suggested terms of ceasefire have been already rejected by over 20 opposition groups. Syrian experts believe that any agreements between Russia and the US will not lead to such a separation because they have no peaceful options to force the opposition to do this.

The second problem is that the main sponsor of Fatah al-Sham, Saudi Arabia, will likely continue to support the terrorist group. By now, Fatah al-Sham and its allies have been a pillar of the kingdom’s foreign policy in Syria. If it’s destroyed, all efforts of Riyadh will be wasted and the Iranian position in the region will be strengthened. Many in Saudi Arabia elites will call such result a total failure of the whole police over the conflict.

Generalizing the situation, it’s possible to suggest that the so-called “moderate opposition” will continue to operate hand by hand with terrorists despite the political agreement between Washington and Moscow. Some experts believe that the only solution of this problem is a constant full-scale military pressure on terrorists and their allies and massive diplomatic pressure on Ankara. Turkey is remaining the main logistical hub for military supplies to the terrorists despite the recent rapprochement with Russia. Turkey pursues its own interests in Syria creating a buffer zone between Jarabulus and Azaz in order to oppose creation of a Kurdish autonomous region there.

In the negative scenario, supplies of humanitarian aid to Aleppo city will strengthen the terrorist forces based there and the US will be able to sabotage the start of joint actions against the terrorists because moderate groups are not able to separate from Fatah al-Sham, again. In this case, the ongoing ceasefire is just a tactical pause before further military and diplomatic escalation over the Syrian crisis.

Will Moscow be able turn the tide in favor of the practical solution of the problem and push the US-led anti-Assad block to real cooperation against terrorists? This depends on Russia’s ability to actualize the recent military and diplomatic success in Syria and, for sure, on the unreleased parts of the US-Russian agreement.

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  • Sylvain Gregoire Bautista

    Fatah el sham est une organisation Takfiriste je ne comprends pas pourquoi la France et les États Unis ne tape pas dessus pour restaurer la paix au levant

  • JohnH

    How far can you throw an adult African male elephant single handed?
    That’s how far Russia should trust America regarding making deals.

  • But Washington has warned Russia that unless aid is delivered to Aleppo, it will not move ahead with the formation of the joint coordination center.

    Where’s this “joint coordination center” to be based?

    Russia? Doubt the US would agree.
    The US? Doubt the Russians would agree.

    Somewhere closer to the action, in neutral territory, a warship in the Mediterranean, perhaps?

    And more to the point, who will be in overall charge of calling the shots, if anyone, and who will they report to, who will be the political authority?

    Putin? I doubt Obama would agree.
    Obama? I doubt Putin would agree.
    Ban Ki-moon? Gimme a break.

    Well I think the world’s supreme leader should be Condoleezza Rice, so I suggest Condi for political authority for the joint coordination center.

    • Where’s this “joint coordination center” to be based?

      Jordan, apparently, if this report about a similar proposal confined to anti-al Nusra operations mooted in July is anything to go by.

      The Hill – Report: US proposes joint facility with Russia to target al Qaeda in Syria
      http://thehill.com/policy/defense/287732-report-us-to-propose-joint-facility-with-russia-to-target-al-qaedas-syria

      By Rebecca Kheel – 07/14/16

      “Under the proposal, the Joint Implementation Group would be
      headquartered in Amman, Jordan. Each country would maintain separate
      offices, as well as staff a joint coordination center “to exchange
      intelligence and operational information.”

      Operations against al Nusra would be coordinated, with both countries
      agreeing to targets beforehand. Only one country’s military would carry
      out an operation, but “at some point, national authorities may authorize
      the participants to coordinate on integrated operations,” the proposal
      reads.

      Also, one country could target al Nusra without telling the other in the case of “imminent threats,” the proposal says.

      Regime forces would also not be allowed to fly in “designated areas”
      where al Nusra is located. There would be exemptions, though, for
      medical evacuations, personnel recovery and humanitarian assistance.

      Meanwhile, operations against ISIS would be “independent, but synchronized,” the proposal says.”

      _______

      And more to the point, who will be in overall charge of calling the
      shots, if anyone, and who will they report to, who will be the political
      authority?

      No one person calls the shots it seems. Both countries would hold a veto over operations.

      BREAKING: US Planes Hit Syrian Government Forces – Many Casulaties
      https://southfront.org/us-led-forces-hit-syrian-army/

      US-led coalition jets have targeted positions of the Syrian government
      forces near the city of Deir ez-Zor, resulting in at least 62 death and
      more than 100 injured soldiers.

      So presumably, if this joint facility had been in operation the US would
      have “synchronised” with the Russians before attacking what they
      thought was ISIS and would have been told “Woah! Those are SAA!” by the Russians and hopefully the attack called off?

      Well I could salute that.

      I still think we need Condi in there somewhere though.

  • The second problem is that the main sponsor of Fatah al-Sham, Saudi Arabia, will likely continue to support the terrorist group. By now, Fatah al-Sham and its allies have been a pillar of the kingdom’s foreign policy in Syria. If it’s destroyed, all efforts of Riyadh will be wasted and the Iranian position in the region will be strengthened. Many in Saudi Arabia elites will call such result a total failure of the whole police over the conflict.

    I could live with that.