Syria Truce holds, despite questions on Humanitarian Aid

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The London pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-`Arabi reports that the truce that began Monday night held during its first twenty-four hours, in the areas designated for a cease-fire by Russia and the United States. The boom of artillery fire faded away at nightfall on Monday. It coincided with the beginning of the Muslim holy day, Eid al-Adha. The Syrian Observatory also confirmed that the main battlefields in Aleppo, Damascus and Idlib had fallen quiet.

Secretary of State John Kerry cautioned that this cease-fire might be Syria’s last chance to remain together as a single country.

(Juan says that you can’t really tell about these things. The Lebanese fought for 15 years, then made peace. All 15 years people were saying it would split up into cantons, but it didn’t. Then South Sudan fought a separatist insurgency for years and finally did secede, breaking up Sudan; but that didn’t bring peace to South Sudan, where the factions no longer even have Khartoum to mediate between them. This fixation on breaking up countries is hard for me to understand).

One of the big changes the truce brought is an end to the intensive bombing of rebel-held areas by the Syrian Air Force. In the village of Talbisa on the outskirts of the city of Homs, rebel fighter Hassan Abu Nuh told AFP that the bombing had been keeping them up all night every night, but last night they were able to sleep.

Many Syrians in the countryside are skeptical that the truce will hold past the three days of the Eid.

The next step foreseen, if it becomes safe enough, is for humanitarian aid to begin being delivered to populations that had been under siege or whose supply routes had been cut by the fighting.

There was little sign of political compromise, however, which is a bad sign for the future. Regime strongman Bashar al-Assad gave a creepy speech in which he pledged to recover control of the entire country (and since he runs secret police that specialize in torturing political prisoners, he does mean control). Al-Assad also said that Turkey was not welcome to bring in humanitarian aid into Syrian territory unless Ankara cleared the shipments with Damascus first. Fat chance.

On the other hand, the remnants of the Free Syrian Army rebels (mostly Muslim Brotherhood) issued a communique outlining their discontents with the truce agreement, though they did not reject it. If the ceasefire holds in disputed areas for 48 hours, it will be renewed for another 48, and so on in hopes that it will become long-lasting.

The Freemen of Syria, a major hard line Salafi Jihadi group, did reject the ceasefire, as, of course, the Fateh al-Sham (formerly the Nusra Front) or Army of Syrian Conquest (whose leader is pledged to al-Qaeda).

On Monday, Russia asked the US and its air coalition to begin bombing Fateh al-Sham positions, on the grounds that they are terrorists.

The ceasefire does not cover either Fateh al-Sham or Daesh (ISIS, ISIL).

The US hit a Daesh facility on Monday that it believes has been used to produce chemical weapons.

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Related video:

AFP: “Syria ceasefire takes effect in Aleppo, scepticism persists”

7 Responses

  1. The cease fire is unlikely last as the positions of the two warring parties is not going to change. The Russians want to keep Assad or an acceptable successor and the so called moderate terrorists, we British and the Americans want the Assad government to go completely. The complaint against Assad is that he has not been elected, but neither have the moderate terrorists supported by the West. The whole thing could well end in some terrible conflagration. As Marx once said; great historical events happen twice. First as a tragedy and second as a farce. The farce of Iraq and Libya is there for all to see after the tragedy. The tragedy of Yemen is still unfolding as it is with the Ukraine. I don’t put much store on quotations from the bible, but that one about “man will one day destroy himself” still seems plausible.

  2. The ceasefire does not cover either Fateh al-Sham or Daesh (ISIS, ISIL).

    i prefer a term like “coordinated targeting agreement” to “ceasefire” . a “ceasefire” that does not include the true adversaries is really not a “ceasefire”. if we will not consider a future that includes these enemies, we are not really serious about a ceasefire. we are in the pursuit of an unconditional surrender. we are in the pursuit of total annihilation of our enemies. “ceasefire through annihilation” might be appropriate.

  3. it is interesting how nobody is really fooled by this kind of orwellian terminology. everybody knows the war continues abated.

  4. Reading the Wednesday DOS briefing, it is tempting to discern a US position that is far from straight forward. The Russians are to ‘try’ to hold Assad, who has accepted the ceasefire, in check from all but ISIS and Nusrah while the US ‘tries’ the same with the twenty some odd groups of ‘moderate’ rebels, some of whom have announced they don’t accept the ceasefire. A key phrase being: Ultimately, this is self-selection and we’ve talked about this before as well. If the regime or the – certain groups within the moderate opposition don’t comply with the cessation of hostilities, then they’ve identified themselves as not a part of it. So, if the Russians succeed in restraining the government forces and the US fails with the ‘moderates’, the ‘moderates’ gain and that is not the ‘fault’ of the US which has made every effort to hold them back. Could this not be interpreted as a calculated way to continue regime change efforts while nobbling the government’s response. link to state.gov

  5. “… John Kerry cautioned that this cease-fire might be Syria’s last chance to remain together as a single country.” I have heard Kerry float this idea before. It makes sense if you consider the Israeli plan presented in 1982 by journalist Oded Yinon. It outlines the idea that if the Arab governments around Israel can be disrupted and broken into powerless statelets then power and control can be extended throughout the middle east. They thought they had accomplished that with Lebanon in ’82 but it didn’t hold. The US government embraced the idea in the New American Century. Iraq has fallen, then Libya, the coup in Egypt and now Syria? And why do we call elected governments of sovereign nations we don’t like “regimes”? Was our government telling the truth about Iraq’s “regime” – weapons of mass destruction, yellow cake uranium, etc? No. Then why do we think they’re telling the truth about Assad and the Syrian government? I’m skeptical about the US government’s intentions as expressed by Kerry.

  6. I would read it, that this “key phrase” means that if they don’t comply with the CoH and are therefore not part of it, that they are fair game. The Syrians and Russians will be able to go after them along with the Al-Qaeda, Daesh, and Nusra groups and their affiliates.

    Antoinetta III

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