THE CEASE-FIRE IN SYRIA: WHAT DOES IT PORTEND?
"World powers have agreed to implement a nationwide “cessation of hostilities” in Syria by the end of next week in an effort to salvage the peace talks that crumbled last month. The breakthrough — announced at a meeting in Munich of the International Syria Support Group, the countries whose influence is critical to the outcome of the five-year war — will pave the way for opposition and regime parties to meet again under the auspices of the UN in the coming days. The ISSG communique outlines three key areas of agreement. First, a commitment to implement a cessation of hostilities, nationwide, by the end of next week. A UN task force, co-chaired by Russia and the US, will begin meeting on Monday to outline the “modalities” for the cessation of hostilities and the pathway to cement them into a permanent ceasefire. The task force will also agree on which areas are judged to be under terrorist control and, therefore, legitimate to target with air strikes. Second, a commitment to meet all existing UN humanitarian access requests. A second UN task force will be established to ensure full compliance by all fighting groups in Syria. Aid drops by parachute and by convoy will begin immediately, the ISSG communique states. Third, the ISSG reiterated the urgency of reopening the formal UN-led peace process. Speaking at a press conference late on Thursday night in Munich, John Kerry, US secretary of state said: “We have taken a different step than we, the ISSG, have done previously. Today we decided on a process, on a timeframe, and we all agreed to do everything we can to meet that. “This is ambitious but everyone is determined to move as rapidly as possible to try to achieve it.” Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said it would be a 'complicated task'".”Sam Jones, "World powers agree path to Syria ceasefire". The Financial Times. 12 February 2016, in www.ft.com
"A diplomatic push for a temporary pause in Syria's civil war and the delivery of humanitarian aid faced huge hurdles Friday, with Russia saying it would continue its airstrikes and government planes dropping leaflets urging rebels to surrender because "the belt is narrowing around you." A plan for the "cessation in violence" announced by the U.S. and Russia does not go into effect for a week, and while the Syrian opposition expressed "cautious optimism," it also said more innocent civilians would be killed in that span. Government forces, aided by a withering Russian bombing campaign, are trying to encircle rebels in Syria's largest city of Aleppo and cut off their supply route to Turkey. Another week of fighting could bring the Syrian troops closer to that goal. Syrian forces recaptured several strategic hills north of Aleppo and are in position to target the final supply line to the rebel-held eastern suburbs, according to Al-Manar TV, a Lebanese channel run by the militant group and Syrian ally Hezbollah. Heavy fighting between government and opposition forces occurred south of Aleppo, around the town of Tamoura, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It said 12 fighters of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front were killed. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry praised the agreement in Munich as a significant accomplishment in the five-year war, but he noted that a cessation of hostilities, if achieved, would only be a "pause" in the fighting and that more work would be needed to turn it into a full-fledged cease-fire. He also said the agreements made were "commitments on paper" only. "The real test is whether or not all the parties honor those commitments and implement them," he told reporters after the nearly six-hour meeting concluded early Friday.... Lavrov made clear that Moscow will continue airstrikes on Aleppo and other parts of Syria because they are targeting groups that are not eligible for the "temporary cessation of hostilities"'.Bassem Mroue & Matthew Lee, "Diplomats aim for temporary Syria truce in a week". Associated Press. 12 February 2016, in www.ap.org. One does not have to be as pessimistic as Kathy Gilsinan is in the current edition of the American periodical the Atlantic to be skeptical about the peace plan / cease-fire agreed to by the Americans and their allies and Moskva and its allies. It is self-evident merely from the statements coming out of Russia as well as Damascus that for Putin & Assad, any cease-fire plan is at best a pis-aller preparatory to the fall of Aleppo to Assad's forces 1. There is nothing to indicate or to show that Putin & Assad are truly interested in a halt to fighting. Far from it as per what is being said. Accordingly, what the Americans and their allies need to decide and quickly as possible is: what are its goals in this conflict? The defeat of the terrorists of ISIS or the ouster of Assad? Or both? If the latter, then one can only conclude that the Americans do not have the will and the Europeans and the Sunni powers of the region lack the means to accomplish both. A tactical situation which is the polar opposite of that of Grazhdanin Putin. Moskva's goals being both narrow in scope (prop up the Assad regime and prevent it from falling at a minimum) and it would currently appear achievable. What needs to happen in Syria is that the Americans & their allies must rethink what their achievable goals are. In the absence of such, all the cease-fires in the world will accomplish nothing. 1. Kathy Gilsinan, "What Happens If Aleppo Falls? Why the Syrian war—and the future of Europe—may hinge on one city". The Atlantic. 11 February 2016 in www.theatlantic.com.