We’re less than two days away from a ceasefire deal that was brokered by the US and Russia, being implemented in war-torn Syria. Yet this does not mean the end of violence and death in the country, as the struggle against terrorism will continue.
On Tuesday, Washington made it clear that they have a “plan B” for Syria in a obvious threat against the Syrian government. Kerry goes on to say that “The proof will be in the actions that come in the next days“.
The “options” that Kerry speak of, in case a political transition fails to unfold in Syria can only be interpreted as a escalation of the global war being waged against Syria. Thus, Washington has reaffirmed it’s commitment to regime change in Syria, as they look to use this ceasefire deal to their advantage.
I say ‘Use’ because Kerry issued this threat only to President Bashar al-Assad and not to any other warring party, as if it is only the government who’s doing all the fighting. This shows that Kerry and Washington are not serious about ending the five year long conflict, instead they are looking to gain something from this ceasefire deal.
It comes as no surprise that just when the Syrian Arab Army- backed by Russian airstrikes launched multiple offensives in the Aleppo Governorate and captured large areas, that this ceasefire deal was accepted by Washington and it’s allies. Washington had to stop the government advance, with its regional allies in Ankara and Riyadh even threatning to invade Syria under different pretexts. Washington understood that this would result in a huge embarrassment for them since the Saudis would most likely be destroyed in Syria and Ankara’s main focus lies on its obsessive campaign against the Kurdish YPG in northern Syria, a US backed group.
The ceasefire deal, supposedly a nationwide cessation of hostilities, does not according to a joint statement by the US and Russia include the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Jabhat Al-Nusra and “and other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council.”
It still remains to be seen who these “other terrorists organizations” are. It would be an understatement to say that views on different militants groups closely aligned to Jabhat Al-Nusra, differ radically. Organizations such as Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham, Jaysh Al-Islam and Harakat Nour Ad-Din Al-Zengi are groups not designated as terrorist groups by the Security Council as only Syria, Russia and Iran are the countries that consider these groups to be terrorists while Washington and their allies consider them to be “moderates”. As a matter of fact, Washington even engaged in talks with Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham.
The reality is that these groups are no different from Jabhat Al-Nusra and ISIL. They are no different in terms of ideology and in use of tactics as these groups commit suicide bombings, behead opponents and perform genocidal acts against minorities just as ISIL and Jabhat Al-Nusra do. Yet these are the same groups being promoted as moderates by Riyadh and Ankara, with Washington providing political cover.
For an observant person following this war, it is clear that these groups not only share the same ideology and brutality as ISIL and Jabhat Al-Nusra, but they also actively cooperate with ISIL and Jabhat Al-Nusra against the Syrian Armed Forces. This was manifested this week in the joint operation launched by ISIL, Jund Al-Aqsa (Al-Qaeda) and the Free Syrian Army against the only Syrian government supply route to Aleppo. This joint offensive, an obvious attempt to stall the Syrian Army’s advance in Aleppo and gain leverage, comes at a convenient time with less than a week remaining before the implementation of the deal.
It would be naive to think that Washington has simply dropped the “moderate rebel” narrative. The US won’t go from being furious with Russian airstrikes against these “moderate” groups, or as a US official called them last year: “Our guys”, to just accepting them as terrorists and giving Moscow consent for their campaign.
We can thus expect the ceasefire deal to utterly fail, just like the previous peace talks failed and we can expect its failure to be used by Washington and it’s allies to further push for a invasion or escalation. I say this for two reasons:
1- The failure to agree on who is considered a terrorist and who’s not. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made it clear that his country will continue the fight against terrorists. Whether or not they will target Washington’s “moderate” proxies that are not designated by the Security Council as terrorists but continue to intermingle with Jabhat Al-Nusra and ISIL, is entirely up to the militants themselves and their commitment to the deal.
2- The Syrian President made it also clear that the ceasefire must guarantee that support for terrorists from countries such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia must end. This is highly unlikely considering the heavy investments made by those in power in Riyadh and Ankara into this war.
The likely scenario is that the ceasefire will be broken within a week as the plethora of Al-Qaeda groups, not only have poor negotiating skills, but they will never respect any agreement where the Syrian government remains in power, neither will the people in Ankara and Riyadh for that matter. This in turn will lead to continued fighting and Washington accusing the Syrian Armed Forces for breaching the ceasefire agreement. The ceasefire, which will give the terrorist groups time to regroup and re-arm could therefore also be used by Washington to forestall the government advance.
Anyone hoping for a shift in Washington’s Syria policies is doomed to be disappointed. Washington is seeking new ways to assume control of a situation they have lost control of ever since the start of the Russian air campaign.
In such an event, Washington will have clearly chosen the path of destruction, siding with Ankara and Riyadh, in support of a possible invasion of Syria or a escalation, which could possibly involve arming the terrorists with sophisticated anti-air weaponry.
But this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, should it?
Aram Mirzaei is an Iranian MA Candidate writing his dissertation titled “The Syrian Conflict – A Struggle of Interests”.