Saturday, February 27, 2016

Syrian cease fire has held so far. Reuters.

The UN security council voting on the halt to the fighting. Reuters. 

The US and Russian brokered cease fire for the Syrian Civil War is holding so far. Reuters. The cease fire went into effect today and most fighting in the war torn country has ceased. Both the forces of Bashar al-Assad and the various rebel groups fighting him have stopped offensive operations against each other. Russia suspended all airstrikes, even ones against Jihadist targets, to help ensure that the truce would hold. Some small skirmishes continued, but the level of violence has dropped down considerably. The cease fire is already the most effective truce brokered so far in the war, but there are fears that it won't last long. Importantly, the agreement doesn't cover ISIS or al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra Front. 

My Comment:
Well, this truce is already going better then I thought it would. I was thinking that one or more of the parties involved would pull out at the last minute. I was also sure that ISIS and al-Nusra would do everything in their power to derail the peace initiative. It sounds like they did, since there are reports of both groups taking action, but calmer heads seems to have prevailed. The threat of suicide bombings and attacks by both groups is still very high, but so far it hasn't done enough to stop the truce.

I never thought I would have seen the day. I always figured that the Syrian Civil War would end in one of three ways. The government would destroy the rebels, the rebels destroyed the government or Jihadist groups defeating both. But this cease fire means that there is a small chance that a fourth option, a real legitimate peace deal that leaves both sides alive, could happen. It's still not likely, but there is at least hope now, however slim that hope might be. 

I think there is an obvious reason why all parties agreed to this cease fire. The Jihadist threat is greater then ever and all the effort the rebels spent fighting the government was wasted when it should have been spent fighting ISIS and al-Nusra. Once the airstrikes begin again, ISIS and al-Nusra should get the full attention of both the United States and Russia. And if the cease fire holds long enough where it looks like peace is a real possibility, then both sides could move their forces around to better hit ISIS and al-Nusra. Though nobody has much reason to work together in Syria, the destruction of these terrorist groups is in almost everyone's best interests. Once those Jihadist groups are destroyed, and that is no sure thing, then the fighting may pick up again. But for right now, they are the bigger threat. 

So will the cease fire hold? I still am not too optimistic. There are just so many things that can go wrong. The fighting is still going on somewhat and the small skirmishes that are still happening could spiral out of control. All it would take would be for one angry commander on the ground, on either side, to order a raid and the war could start up again very quickly. And with so much blood spilled on all sides, I just don't see people giving any mistakes the benefit of the doubt. 

And the fact that the war against ISIS and al-Nusra will continue could be another threat to the peace process. The airstrikes are going to continue but the problem is identifying targets. The rebel groups on the ground don't really look much different then the ISIS and al-Nusra fighters in the same area. Mistaken identity could lead to some attacks that are directed at the wrong people. That alone might be enough to derail the peace process.

Still, this is very good news out of Syria, even if it doesn't last. If a truce can hold for 24 hours then it can last for longer. Even if this one falls apart, the next one may last longer. And who knows? Maybe they won't need another truce. 

I do think that Russia deserves a lot of credit for organizing this peace deal. The pressure they put on the various rebel groups on the ground went a long way to getting them to accept a cease fire. After all, the rebels in Aleppo especially, were looking at oblivion had the fighting continued much longer. Though the Russian air strikes were unpopular, you can't argue that they didn't change the course of the war. If this cease fire holds, then they changed the course of the war for the better. 

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