Syria: another ceasefire bites the dust?

Author: us-russia
Comments: 0
Syria: another ceasefire bites the dust?
Published 23-09-2016, 05:55

Gwynne Dyer

Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

It’s clear that the main problem lies in Washington

As the Syrian ceasefire arranged by the United States and Russia teeters on the brink of collapse, it’s clear that the main problem lies in Washington.

Moscow’s goal has never been in doubt: it wants the regime of Bashar al-Assad to survive. The Obama administration has been reluctantly moving towards the same conclusion, but it simply can’t admit it, even to itself.

The Russian government bitterly condemned the American air strike that killed 60 to 80 Syrian army personnel on Saturday, but everybody knows that air strikes sometimes hit the wrong people. It was a mistake, that’s all, and the Russians really understand that – but it was a mistake that tells us a lot about how far the U.S. has moved.

Until recently the United States, still formally pledged to overthrow the Assad regime, would not attack Islamic State troops if they were fighting the Syrian army. (That’s why Islamic State captured the historic city of Palmyra two years ago: the U.S. air force would not strike the long and vulnerable IS line of communications across the desert, because that would have been "helping Assad”.)

But the U.S. air attack that went astray at Deir es-Zor last weekend was targeting Islamic State troops who were in direct contact with the Syrian army. It’s because the two sides were so close together that the planes hit the Syrian troops by mistake. American diplomats still deny it, but the U.S. is now willing to help Assad, at least sometimes.

The strategic calculation that has driven U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry into this uncomfortable position is brutally simple. If Assad’s regime does not survive, then the extreme Islamists will take over all of Syria. The fantasy of a "third force” in Syria, made up of democracy-loving non-Islamist rebels who could defeat both the Islamists and Assad, has died even in the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon.

The "moderate” rebels that the United States has backed for so long make up no more than ten or fifteen percent of the real fighting strength of the anti-Assad forces, and most of them are actually allied to the Islamists. In fact, the "moderates” wouldn’t survive long without their Islamist alliance – so it’s time for Washington to abandon them.

The ceasefire terms show that Kerry has implicitly accepted that logic, for they demand that the Syrian government and the "moderates” stop shooting and bombing, whereupon the American and Russian air forces will cooperate in bombing the Islamists. And the targets will not only be Islamic State but also the al-Qaeda-linked group that was known until recently as the Nusra Front.

Unfortunately, the "moderate” groups are not only in close alliance with Nusra, but are physically mixed in with the Islamist forces. They will get bombed too if they do not break their links with the Islamist extremists and somehow move away from them, so the ceasefire co-sponsored by the U.S. and Russia demands that they do exactly that. Unfortunately, they can’t.

They can’t do it because on their own they could never hope to overthrow the Assad regime – and also because the Islamists will start killing them as traitors if they even try to break away. So the "moderates” haven’t really accepted the ceasefire either, and the Russians are quite right to complain that they have "not met a single obligation” of the truce.

Everything we know about the ceasefire argues that the Obama administration has accepted the regrettable necessity of leaving the Assad regime in power, although it still cannot bring itself to say so publicly.

A year from now, the areas controlled by the Assad regime, including at least three-quarters of the Syrian population, will probably be the same as now or maybe a little bit bigger. The surviving "moderates,” having detached themselves from al-Nusra, will hold little bits of territory and will be observing a real ceasefire.

The Kurds will still control a band of territory across the extreme north of Syria unless Turkey has waged and won a full-scale war to conquer it. And the Russians and the Americans will both be bombing the territories still controlled by Islamic State and the former Nusra Front, although in less than perfect harmony.

 

capebretonpost.com

Comments: 0
Experts' Panel
Are the U.S. and Russia...
The Sunday, February 24 edition of Russian state television’s...
Are the U.S. and Russia...
Top
popular in the journal
Is Ukraine vital to U.S. security?

Is Ukraine vital to U.S. security?

The ongoing impeachment inquiry of President Trump can certainly compete with Hollywood’s most successful drama or comedy shows. However, when we deal with ...
Responding to Lt. Col. Vindman...

Responding to Lt. Col. Vindman...

honor and applaud Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s service to his country. He’s a hero. I also respect his decision to testify at the impeachment proceedings. I suspect ...
RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 21...

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 21...

RUSSIA INC. The Russian economist Mikhail Dmitriev says "the Russian economy does not give a damn about the world recession [which he sees coming soon].” And he’s ...
RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 5...

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 5...

POWER OF SIBERIA. Putin and Xi turned on the pipeline on Monday. It carries gas from Russia’s Far East into China and has a carrying capacity of 61 billion ...
Уперлись в стенограмму

Уперлись в стенограмму

Политолог Эдуард Лозанский — о том, как Владимир Зеленский стал средством на пути Демократической партии США к цели