Despite Syria Cease Fire, Belligerents Plot military Victory

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Despite the announcement at Munich of a cessation of hostilities in Syria, to be implemented in the next week or so, all the major fighting forces in Syria have announced a determination to soldier on.

According to the London pan-Arab daily al-Hayat [Life] , Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov not only said that the cease-fire did not apply to Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) or al-Qaeda (the Nusra Front or Support Front) but he also said it did not apply to the the Freemen of Syria, the Army of Islam and “other terrorists.” He accused Turkey of being behind all the Syrian “terrorist groups.” But he said there could be a cessation of hostilities with other rebel groups.

Most of the fighting in Syria is between the Syrian Arab Army on the one side and groups like Daesh, al-Qaeda, the Freemen of Syria, and the Army of Islam on the other. So if they aren’t included by Russia, it means the fighting will just go on.

In particular, al-Hayah says that the Russians are determined to take all of Aleppo as quickly as possible and that hasn’t changed.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister reaffirmed that his country’s goal is to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad. Saudi Arabia has been considering sending troops to Syria. These bruited plans drew from Moscow a warning of “world war III.”

Then Bashar al-Assad, the strongman at the head of the Syrian regime, came out and said that he intended to retake all of Syria, even though that task might take a long time.

These statements don’t sound like a cessation of hostilities to me.

There is more. The rebel groups in east Aleppo, which the regime has not yet retaken, have just announced that they got new deliveries of Grad missiles to use against the Syrian Arab Army (presumably from the CIA and Saudi Arabia through Turkey). Most of the rebel groups in east Aleppo are relatively moderate and shouldn’t be defined even by the Russians as “terrorists,” but one has a sinking feeling that they will be. And that they will be starved and that non-combatants in that area will be bombed indiscriminately. If there was any chance the Russians would treat them as moderates rather than terrorists, one suspects that the new weaponry, with a range of 12 miles and aimed directly at the Syrian army, has ended it.

Meanwhile, the YPG or leftwing Syrian Kurdish militia based in the western canton of Afrin has seen an opening to move east, with the defeat of al-Qaeda and other forces just north of Aleppo. They took a small military base just south of Azaz, a key town on the supply road down from Turkey to east Aleppo. Now they are besieging Azaz itself. If the Kurds take that city, they clearly hope to fight on east until they reach Kobane, thus uniting all three major Kurdish cantons to form their hoped-for Rojava region. Syrian Kurds maintain that this Rojava would be a state in a future federal Syria, and that they aren’t seeking secession or an independent Syrian-Kurdish state. Nevertheless, Turkey is extremely upset by the YPG advances and is determined that Afrin won’t be joined to Kobane (which would have the effect of cutting off the ability of Turkey to supply its Salafi clients among the rebels in northern Syria). It would also however, cut off Daesh from its supply routes up into Turkey, which NATO should consider a positive even if Ankara does not.

So in all likelihood, Turkey will do what it can to stop the YPG Kurdish advance.

It is to be hoped that in as much of Syria as possible there will be a cessation of hostilities and that food can be delivered to civilians who are being starved by the various sides. But the big war fronts seem likely to continue to be hot.

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Related video:

“Syria conflict: World powers say ‘progress made’ – BBC News”

16 Responses

  1. There’s a guy here, Jean-Michel Vernochet, writing that the population of Nouboul et Zahra welcomed the Syrian soldiers as liberators, showering them with rice and flowers.

    Autant dire que la rébellion court maintenant le risque d’un effondrement à court terme, surtout que l’armée de Damas est parvenue, le 4 février, à briser l’encerclement (en place depuis 2012) par les djihadistes de deux petites villes chiites, Nouboul et Zahra, dont la population a reçu les soldats loyalistes sous des pluies de riz et de fleurs. Ce qui signifie que plusieurs milliers, 5.000 peut-être, miliciens chiites seront disponibles pour joindre leurs forces à celles des assiégeants d’Alep.

    What can one believe? link to bvoltaire.fr

  2. It seems I didn’t even have time to predict that once again Turkey would attack the Syrian Kurds while claiming to go after ISIS before they actually did, per CNN Turk as reported at Hurriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman.
    Now the question is whether Obama will defend the only force that the US can work with our continue a US tradition of sacrificing them.

  3. News reports of Saudi fighter planes moving to Turkish airbases to target “the terrorists” in Syria ,next step destroy Russian anti-aircraft systems ?

  4. When one side believes it is winning in a conflict, they are not likely to agree to a cease fire. Assad and his Russian allies think they are winning and will win, so this is basically a farce and not a serious cease fire.

  5. East Aleppo is not largely controlled by moderates as you claim. The majority is controlled by Islamists and even the most extreme Islamist factions. Do you think Russia should go block to block and canvas the militants for their views on women’s rights and secularism?

  6. Most of the rebel groups in east Aleppo are relatively moderate

    Do they support religious and gender equality? Can women walk unveiled in East Aleppo?

    • Nusra is only one of the groups in East Aleppo and not demographically by any means the largest. The article also points to massacres of opposition populations by pro-Government militias.

  7. Second day of Turkish attacks on YPG forces. YPG has consistently fought ISIS and other Islamists.
    Turkey has consistently supported both yet Obama is silent on the whole situation, which also has not risen to recognition on this site for some reason.

    • Well, I think Obama’s silence is well understood here.

      The US wants continued usage of the Turkish airbases.

        • No, he did not. Biden did. But he’s been out front on many things where Obama doesn’t follow.

      • one base, which it will now share with the Saudis, whom I expect to inflame the sectarian war because that’s what the Saudis do.

  8. Bashar al-Assad cannot maintain his domain without the war power of an oligarchy.

    No actual democracy would ever allow continuous intervention in this region.

  9. Oh boy we’ve gone full Balkan!
    But is it 1995 Balkan or 1913 Balkan? Because you know what comes after 1913.

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