Friday, February 12, 2016

US and Russia agree to a possible truce in Syria. Washington Post.

A woman walks among the rubble caused by an airstrike. Washington Post/Reuters.

An international truce deal has been forged in Munich, which calls for a cessation of fighting in Syria. Washington Post. The agreement calls for humanitarian aid to be delivered to cities under siege for both sides of the conflict. The deal is the first truce to gain any traction since 2012, when a cease fire fell apart mere hours after being signed. The new deal comes on the heals on a very successful offensive, backed by the Russians, aimed at taking back the city of Aleppo. Russia has said that the cease fire would not effect their attacks against ISIS and other terrorist groups. The United States and Russia are supposed to work together to choose targets in Syria targeting the terrorists, but it is far from clear how that would even work. Rebel groups are criticizing the agreement because it doesn't go into effect immediately and because Russia often targets them as well with the claim that they are terrorists. Both sides on the ground have the final say on whether the cease fire goes into effect, though the rebels have little choice in the matter. 

My Comment:
I'm not optimistic that this agreement will amount to much of anything. So much blood has been spilled in this conflict, that I doubt that any diplomatic solution is possible. And there are dozens of things that could torpedo this agreement well before it goes into effect. Any agreement that doesn't either dissolve the rebel organizations or removes Assad from power is pretty pointless. Those are probably the only two options that would end the war. 

And the war wouldn't even end if the rebels and the government stopped fighting. ISIS and al-Nusra are still very active in Syria and neither of them gives a damn about international agreements. They will fight until they are destroyed and right now, they are a long way from having that happen to them. Indeed, both groups are still fairly strong in Syria and are probably the largest threat to peace. And al-Nusra has quite a bit of influence over the so called "secular" rebels and have, in the past, bullied them into doing what they want. Al-Nusra could very well destroy this deal before it starts and even if they don't they could turn on their rebel allies and try to keep the war going that way. 

The rebels are also not particularly united and run the gamut from relatively secular groups to Jihadists that are really not all that much better then ISIS or al-Nusra. Though Russia is fairly indiscriminate in their bombing, it would not be all that hard to get all the rebel groups confused. There are so many different groups fighting the Assad government it is very hard to keep them all straight. With no central command structure and differing goals, there is a good chance that some or even many of the rebel groups would ignore this agreement and just keep fighting. 

Not all the rebels would. Indeed, the ones near Aleppo might have to give up the fight soon anyways. Aleppo is very close to being surrounded completely. The Syrians, along with the Kurds in the North, have cut the rebel supply lines and are very close to laying siege to the entire city. If that happens and the rebels lose the ensuing battle, the war is pretty much over for them anyways. This truce probably won't stop that from happening, but if it does a lot of people's lives could be spared who would otherwise die. 

That also means that Assad and, to a lesser extent, the Kurds, have little reason to stop the war. After everything the Assad regime has been through in the past couple of years, why would they give up when final victory appears to be so close? Yes, they are probably going to be under incredible pressure from the Russians to not break the terms of the deal, but I am guessing they will be looking for any excuse to claim that the other side has. They want to take back Aleppo, and given recent events, it looks like they are closer now then they have been for pretty much the entire war. 

The most significant part of this truce could be the fact that the Russians and the Americans have agreed to work together, even if it is in an extremely limited fashion. We won't be fighting together anytime soon, but the agreement says that we will at least try to choose targets together. I hope that this part of the agreement stands, even if the truce does not. There is absolutely no reason for the US and Russia to not work together in Syria and the fact that we aren't right now is a national shame. Fighting ISIS and al-Nusra should be our number one priority and the survival of the rebels, many of whom aid and abet the more extremist factions, or are Jihadist themselves, should not be a major concern. 

I'm not sure how to feel about the agreement to send supplies to areas that are under siege. Obviously, it would have an immediate humanitarian effect that can't be denied. After all, a lot of people are starving right now in Syria because they have been cut off from food. But I wonder if by helping the besieged towns, they may be extending the war when this truce inevitably falls apart.  Perhaps it would be better to let a few hundred starve now if it means that thousands will live in the future due to battles that won't be fought? Siege warfare and starvation is never pretty but neither is an unending war that degrades into stalemate. No easy answer there for sure. 

I do think this entire post is largely moot because I don't have any faith at all that the truce will hold. At this point both the Syrian regime and the rebels could reject the deal before it even goes into effect. Right now the they don't even know the details of the agreement, and they could find something they don't like. And even if they do go for it a million and one things could go wrong that could derail the deal before it was even implemented or shortly there after. I give his plan a 5% chance of ending the fighting between the regime and the major non-jihadist rebel groups, and to be honest, it seems hopelessly optimistic to even rate it that high...

No comments:

Post a Comment