No Confidence in Russia to Reign in Assad or in US to Deliver Justice to the People

States concerned with the conflict are rushing to divide up the country and threatening both its existence and the fate of its people

The era of Barack Obama is virtually over, and the waiting for Hillary has begun. For Syria, there is only one hope for the outgoing President: that he does not commit any mistakes that constrain future policies and choices, and there is no guarantee that Obama (with his Secretary of State John Kerry) will not make future concessions that are costly to Syria and her people under the pretext of maintaining consultation and cooperation with Vladimir Putin who has not made any concessions since he started putting troops in the country and aircraft in its skies.

The agreement, which became famous for its three goals (direct coordination in the fight against terrorism, comprehensive ceasefire, and re-launching political negotiations), needs the Obama administration’s management in order to control the Syrian situation until the arrival of a new administration. As for Moscow, it needs control in advance of the Clinton administration without committing to ending its efforts to change the facts on the ground or to ensure the minimum necessary for a political solution.

The parties remain interested in an agreement that leaves points of contention unresolved. As each country sought to limit gains, the differences in their views persist as long as Russia is allied with the Syrian regime and Iran. As for America, it is not committed to any allies, friends, or causes except for the dubious relationship with the Syrian branch of the PKK, which continues its feud with the entire Syrian opposition. Assuming that Washington had any principles, then it’s concessions strengthened Russia’s unprincipled argument and subsequently weakened their terms for the future phase and beyond. Even its robust agreement to strike Daesh was revealed by the Turkish intervention in Syria, which had the consent of Russia and Iran. The Turks, who were suspected of supporting Daesh in the beginning, relied on Free Syrian Army troops to fight Daesh. As for the Americans, they previously refused to support the Free Syrian Army in overthrowing the regime of Bashar al-Assad, opening up the space for ISIS to enter and spread. When they later preferred to support the Kurds to fight Daesh instead of the Free Syrian Army, they were opening another conflict that may not only lead to the division of Syria, but also threaten to spread its geographical fragmentation to the regional countries.

Any agreement between the two great powers considers their interests first and foremost. With the possibility of also taking the interests of other allies into account, states concerned with the conflict are rushing to divide up the country and threatening both its existence and the fate of its people. This is highlighting the differences between the two countries: Russia (“the unprincipled”) wants to protect its intervention and avoid complicating it and so it is not wiling to abandon its allies, the Iranians and Assad’s supporters. Rather, it is trying to increase the number of allies, and these efforts appear in its convergence with Turkey and Russia’s granting of privileges in exchange for concessions. As for America (“the very principled”), to its allies, it does not appear to be concerned with them or their interests, and it wants them all to be tools for it to use. Its policies have even gone to the extent of alienating Turkey and risking the security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. More than that, America made bargains with Russia which accept the unethical survival of Assad and his regime. These bargains include courting Iran and courting sectarian and Houthi militias in Yemen and al-Hashad al-Shabi in Iraq

A comprehensive ceasefire continues to be the official yardstick for the upcoming American-Russian agreement, and everyone knows this is a very ambitious bet in comparison to its precedents, which makes it difficult to believe it will come to fruition. It is clear that the agreement is focused on arrangements to stop the fighting in Aleppo, Iran and the regime finally see as a military settlement. However, the arrangements do not include the Ghouta front which will require a comprehensive ceasefire, and it will therefore be at the mercy of violations, which the regime and its allies are proficient in committing. It is true that the difficulty does not mean we should be hopeless, but respect for the ceasefire will depend to a large extent on Russia and whether it is strictly committed to the ceasefire and compels its allies to abandon their plans in Aleppo, especially since they have reestablished their siege, and whether the forced deportations in Ghouta are stopped, The most important thing for them is a follow-up plan to change the demographics. If the Russians could regulate their allies then this could be achieved, as the regime as well as Iran consider stopping the killing a setback and something to be avoided during the crisis.

With the assumption that Russia is the designer this time to honor the ceasefire, there is no doubt that the question is “what it will get in the future?” It is bound to be significant since it is worth taking custody of the ceasefire. It is not believable that Russia would be convinced by only political concessions or by American cooperation in the fight against Jabhat al-Nusra/Fatah al-Sham, whose implementation mechanism is still a vague point due to the difficulty of distinguishing between the moderates and extremists in the opposition and due to increasing overlap between the two in the battle of Aleppo. No matter how accurate the directed strikes at Nusra, they will confuse the atmosphere of the ceasefire, and perhaps undermine the opposition factions’ commitment to the ceasefire since they do not trust any of the foreign powers, particularly the Russians and Iranians. The factions certainly look suspiciously on the regional powers and the fallout in the north. That does not exclude the possibility of seeking their termination or pushing them to fight among themselves under the appearance of fighting Nusra.

There is a link missing in the construction of the agreement and its effective enforcement even though the Americans and the Russians appear convinced that passage of the ceasefire is mandatory for a political breakthrough. They even tried to attribute the agreement’s lateness to their eagerness that the agreement be serious and jump-start a political process Note that there have been few American leaks in regards to consensus for a political solution. It is true that experience has shown that no negotiations are possible under the brutal bombardment and siege-induced starvations, but it has also been shown that Russia was playing a game of escalation in the expectation of obtaining the opposition’s surrender. It is changing its temperament after a year of intervention, and it is distinct from the mentality of the regime and Iran and its militias. Or could it be that Putin is convinced that he has taken the maximum that he can from Obama and is now preparing for the next administration in Washington with a spirit of compromise? All of that is being put to the test, and we should not forget that Moscow has not changed its policies or retreated throughout these five years. On the contrary, it was able to change the policies of Washington, Ankara, and many European capitals.

Perhaps the Syrian opposition is aware of the fact that the price of any serious truce may be an unfair political solution that is forced onto them and onto the international states which support them in order to prevent those states from blocking the political solution. Despite the widespread publicity for the American-Russian agreement, even before it was reached, and the private assurances of American envoys, Russia continues to disregard the opposition and it would only address it with more conditions. It still adopts the template for a solution that is exactly the same as the regime’s. The changing of some positions from the regime is not sufficient or positive because the opposition abandoned its political demand for a transitional phase without Assad. His departure is the foundation of any solution, and his survival is a recipe for failure. In the working paper which the opposition approved in preparation for negotiations, as in the deliberations between the Americans and Russians, the “Military Council” occupies a critical point in any transitional phase. The opposition wants to form the transitional governing body from the revolutionary forces and the regime army (those who do not have blood on their hands), and international parties may request that it includes Kurdish actors. It is likely that the opposition can satisfy them with this composition if “the government” remains instead of “a governing body.” However, the important thing is that a ceasefire and negotiations to end the crisis and the war begin, but for the foreseeable future, there are no indications or guarantees of this.

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

This piece was translated by Jacob Uzamn.

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