Syria: When is a ceasefire not actually a ceasefire?
By : Brooklyn Middleton
If you had not followed the conflict in Syria until this point, you could perhaps be forgiven for briefly thinking that the latest news out of Munich regarding a comprehensive ceasefire could possibly result in stopping the bloodshed. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that the latest plan – which calls for a total “cessation of hostilities” to begin next week – is “ambitious.” But the plan does not appear merely ambitious, however, but instead totally unrealistic. Yet again, involved parties have apparently failed to prioritize specific issues that can be immediately addressed and instead have focused efforts on the broad – and, at this stage, likely impossible – goal of implementing a ceasefire.
Stunningly, initial reports have indicated that the deal – which will not apply to ISIS or Jabhat al-Nusra – may not demand that Russia end its aerial campaign, which has targeted factions outside of Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS and has killed approximately 1,400 civilians. This deal is highly likely to spiral into disaster once Russia confirms, yet again, that it will target all parties opposed to Assad. Kerry himself noted that Russia must shift its focus, stating that, “To date, the vast majority of Russia’s attacks have been against legitimate opposition groups.” There is no reason to assess Russia will indeed agree to halt its attacks against opposition factions and instead begin only targeting ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.
Meanwhile, since the ceasefire was announced, the Turkish military has targeted Kurdish-held positions in northern Syria while Saudi Arabian Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assir reportedly confirmed that a number of the country’s air force jets would be deployed to Turkey’s Incirlik base.
With 470,000 killed and hundreds of thousands of people still living under siege, the country cannot be subjected to more useless deals.
As Turkey and Saudi seemingly gear up for an escalation, Bashar al-Assad has yet again vowed to continue the war indefinitely. In an interview with Agence France-Presse, Assad claimed his military would continue to attempt to retake the entire country, noting that this may be impossible but that it was nonetheless, “a goal we are seeking to achieve without any hesitation.” This is a point worth reiterating: As various parties attempt to facilitate a ceasefire, little, if anything, seems to have shifted in Assad’s world. His regime continues to tell the international community what his supporters did years ago: “Assad or we burn the country.” Continuing to constantly ignore precisely what Assad says he will do is inexcusable and will only prolong the bloodshed.
The latest reports confirm that the death toll in Syria has now reached nearly half a million people. With 470,000 killed and hundreds of thousands of people still living under siege, the country cannot be subjected to more useless deals. Negotiations must continue but sincere efforts to ultimately end the conflict can only be made once previously agreed upon resolutions are upheld. In the meantime, the international community should expect the likely failure of this ceasefire deal and prepare for the next wave of refugees fleeing Assad.
Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst currently based in New York City. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama’s policy in Syria as well as Bashar al-Assad’s continued crimes against his own people. She recently finished her MA thesis on Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, completing her Master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here: @BklynMiddleton.
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