econintersect.com
       
  

FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.



posted on 14 February 2016

The Syria 'Ceasefire' Deal Is No Such Thing - It's Cover For The US And Russia

from The Conversation

-- this post authored by Scott Lucas, University of Birmingham

Headlines are declaring the arrangement of a ceasefire in Syria's conflict. Announced by US secretary of state John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov late on February 11, it has been greeted as a ray of hope in the floundering efforts to end this seemingly intractable conflict.

What is isn't is a ceasefire. The International Syria Support Group (ISSG) - a coalition of 17 nations, among them Russia and the US, the Arab League, the European Union, and the UN - has not in fact used that term, preferring a "cessation of hostilities". And it isn't even that: it's a proposal for a cessation of hostilities, one that will supposedly start soon, but only after a working group has met with representatives of countries supporting the Assad regime and those backing Syria's opposition.

Nor is it a viable proposal. Instead, it's best seen as political cover. It covers Kerry, in his remarkably zealous quest to secure the start of a resolution by the end of March, and Russia, in its mission to prop up the Assad regime by bombing the rebels and civilian areas in concert with both Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iran.

The plan

There are two main components to the plan. First, the ISSG proposes

"immediate and sustained humanitarian access to reach all people in need, throughout Syria, particularly in all besieged and hard-to-reach areas".

It's immediate priorities: the regime-held parts of Deir ez-Zor Province in eastern Syria that are surrounded by Islamic State (IS), regime enclaves in Idlib Province in north-west Syria, and the opposition-held town of Madaya and suburbs of Damascus, where scores of people have died of starvation amid over three years of blockades by Syria's military.

The plan then sets out the steps for "a nationwide cessation of hostilities" to begin in one week's time. Military operations will be halted except for operations against IS, the jihadist militant group Jabhat al-Nusra, and "other groups designated as terrorist organisations by the United Nations Security Council".

These two components lay the foundation for the long-heralded "political transition", still planned to begin within six months after talks between the regime and opposition. The transition will last 18 months to establish a "credible, inclusive, and non-sectarian governance" with a new constitution and "free and fair elections".

But as with the ISSG's plan set out in mid-December, this proposal makes no reference to the fate of president Bashar al-Assad and his inner circle.

The obstacles

On the surface, the commitments to aid and cessation of hostilities meet the conditions set by Syria's opposition/rebel bloc for the start of "proximity talks" with the Assad regime. The failure to engage with those conditions undermined the recent Geneva discussions, which ground to a halt with no advance after less than five days. Meanwhile, Russia continued its intense bombing of north-west and southern Syria in support of regime/Iranian/Hezbollah ground offensives.

However, this is only on the surface. During the press conference that announced the deal, Lavrov made clear that Russia would not halt airstrikes:

"The truce does not go for terrorists ... The military operation against them will be continued."

The proposal covers Moscow's operations by allowing offensives on IS and Jabhat al-Nusra - but there is no guarantee that Russia will stick to these limits. Since the beginning of its strikes on September 30, Russia has used the pretext of attacking IS for a campaign in which more than 80% of operations have been on opposition-held territory. It has progressively expanded that rationale to "terrorists", which conveniently seems to cover all anti-Assad groups.

With Jabhat al-Nusra operating in north-west Syria close to and sometimes alongside rebel factions, Russia can easily maintain this fa├žade. A spokesman for the leading rebel group Ahrar al-Sham immediately predicted that Moscow would exploit the ISSG cover.

Ahem. Reuters/Michael Dalder

Despite Lavrov's uncomfortable expression at the news conference announcing the deal, Russia has another layer of protection from a ceasefire it doesn't really want. The ISSG proposal does not mandate the end to fighting, but only sets up a task force to consider "modalities". It specifically says that implementation of those modalities is contingent on "confirmation by the Syrian government and opposition".

Since 2012, the Assad regime has balked at any restriction of military operations. It undermined the short-lived 2012 UN monitoring force. Its use of chemical weapons, barrel-bombing, and cluster bombs - as well as mass killings of civilians in ground operations - have defied UN resolutions and international law. President Assad has clearly stated that political talks cannot begin without total defeat of "terrorists".

The proposal to get aid into besieged areas does not guarantee relief for civilians, especially those cut off by the Syrian military. The ISSG only says that members will "use their influence with all parties on the ground" to seek aid deliveries. A "humanitarian task force" will consider a UN plan, but there is no mechanism to proceed if the Assad regime objects - as it generally has done whenever the UN has requested access to besieged areas.

Kerry and Lavrov said that the US and Russia will cooperate on airdrops of assistance to some areas, but given Moscow's position, priority is being given to the regime-held areas in Deir ez-Zor Province. No arrangements have been set out for opposition towns and the Damascus suburbs.

The political game

Put bluntly, the ISSG plan is not for suffering Syrians. It is not for the opposition-rebel bloc, who are now threatened on the battlefield by a combination of the regime/Russian/Iranian/Hezbollah offensives, US-supported Kurdish forces, and IS.

Instead - beyond the Assad regime, which gets more breathing space after it was close to collapse a year ago - the beneficiaries are the US and Russian governments.

As has been the case since autumn 2013, when the US pulled back from a response to the regime's use of chemical weapons, Kerry can show that something is being done - even if it's unlikely to yield a desired outcome - by working with the Russians. He can continue for a few more weeks in the belief, whether genuinely held or cynically put forward, that a "political transition" will occur.

That transition is unlikely to ever begin, but Kerry can then find a scapegoat. As he said when asked by aid workers why he was not protecting civilians:

"Don't blame me - go and blame your opposition."

That will suit the Russians just fine. They can maintain that they proposed the cessation of hostilities, even if the plan is hollow. When the opposition and rebels point out the defects, Moscow can ensure that Kerry "blames" that bloc for the "breakdown" of the process. And all the while, Russia's air force can keep bombing, while Hezbollah, Iranian forces and Kurdish units erode the rebels' hold on territory.

And only hours after the deal was agreed, Bashar al-Assad gave an interview to AFP in which he vowed to retake "the whole country". What ceasefire?

The ConversationScott Lucas, Professor of International Politics, University of Birmingham

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical Opinion Post Listing










Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted.  As the internet is a "war zone" of trolls, hackers and spammers - Econintersect must balance its defences against ease of commenting.  We have joined with Livefyre to manage our comment streams.

To comment, using Livefyre just click the "Sign In" button at the top-left corner of the comment box below. You can create a commenting account using your favorite social network such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Open ID - or open a Livefyre account using your email address.



You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.





Econintersect Opinion


search_box

Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF


The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.


Take a look at what is going on inside of Econintersect.com
Main Home
Analysis Blog
Consumers Carry Weak GDP Number Out of the Red
The Theory of the Monetary Circuit: A Critique
News Blog
What We Read Today 30 September 2016
NASA Slow Motion Rocket Engine Test
23 September 2016: ECRI's WLI Growth Index Unchanged
Final September 2016 Michigan Consumer Sentiment Up Slightly
September 2016 Chicago Purchasing Managers Barometer Strengthens
August 2016 Personal Consumption and Income Year-over-Year Growth Slows.
Rail Week Ending 24 September 2016: Data Is Mixed
Infographic Of The Day: Global Energy Efficiency
Early Headlines: Asia Stocks Lower, Oil Soft, Japan Deflation Strengthens, Trade Backlash, Trump Fades, Veto Override Reconsidered, DB Could Take Down Merkel And Euro, Germany's "Adolfina" And More
What Are British People Most Proud Of
Trust In Mass Media Erodes
Shimon Peres Was An Israeli Nationalist First And A Peacemaker Second
Guessing Game: Valuations Of Trump's Fortune
Investing Blog
Are You A Trader Or Investor?
Investing.com Technical Summary 29 September 2016
Opinion Blog
First: 'Over-Population End-of Times' Now: 'Shrinking Population Disaster'
The Federal Reserve Note
Precious Metals Blog
Where Silver Prices Are Headed Now After Fed's Latest Inaction
Live Markets
30Sep2016 Market Close: Markets Teetering On Investor Doubt, Will Collapse Of Deutsche Bank Matter, US Dollar Headed South Along With Gold, Higher Crude Prices Sure To Take Market Down
Amazon Books & More






.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Europe
Middle East / Africa
Americas
USA Government



Crowdfunding ....






























 navigate econintersect.com

Blogs

Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day
Weather

Newspapers

Asia / Pacific
Europe
Middle East / Africa
Americas
USA Government
     

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed
Google+
Facebook
Twitter
Digg

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution

Contact

About

  Top Economics Site

Investing.com Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2016 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved