February 24, 2016

GLOBAL IMPACT |The Syrian Ceasefire

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Photo Courtesy of The Telegraph

Photo Courtesy of The Telegraph

A big leap forward in the Syrian Civil War arrived this Tuesday with the Syrian Government’s agreement to the ceasefire detailed by America and Russia this past week. The ceasefire agreement should bring the conflict among the Assad Government, Syrian Kurds and moderate Syrian Opposition to a close, while leaving the battlefield open for continued attacks on Isis and al-Nusra. While the Assad regime’s acceptance of this ceasefire is great news, I believe that there still are a plethora of problems to solve in Syria, some of which may be further exacerbated by this peace treaty.

1. Increased ISIS Attacks

With the recent car bombings in Damascus and Homs, which killed 120, ISIS has laid claim to another terrorist attack in Syria in accordance with their plans to escalate the war. This plan makes sense given ISIS and al-Nusra have not been included in the peace talks, excluded since discussion of cessation of hostilities does not apply to internationally recognized terrorist organizations. It is in their best interest to continue attacks against the parties involved in hopes of stopping this ceasefire, or at least preventing it from ever being stable. Logically, the parties involved with the treaty have voiced their concerns that other groups to better their military positions might exploit this ceasefire. For example, President Assad has stated repeatedly that he will not agree to the ceasefire if he feels terror groups are given an advantage.

2. Pre-texts for Future Attacks

One particular reason why it took so long for a ceasefire to even come about in the Syrian Civil War was the distrust among involved parties. The Russians don’t trust the Syrian Opposition or the United States, the Syrian Opposition doesn’t trust Assad or Russia and, to a certain extent, the United States doesn’t trust the Syrian Opposition, Assad or Russia. Even though a ceasefire has been reached, the distrust among these parties has not magically vanished. Rather, the distrust is still there and will continue to be strong for the next few weeks, months and even years, until true stability can be reached. There are sharp fears among some officials in the Syrian Opposition that with the exclusion of al-Nusra and ISIS, terrorist bombings may be used as a pretext to attack Opposition members in technically neutral areas by the Assad regime. Of course this argument applies in reverse where the Assad regime has voiced their own distrust of the Opposition to completely desist in the areas technically marked for ceasefire.

3. Reliance on Russia

Another issue with this ceasefire is its reliance on Russia to uphold it. While the Russians have been increasingly involved in recent months with the Syrian Civil War, and have made substantial progress in helping the Assad regime regain territory, their efforts have still been considered controversial due to the nature of their bombings. Up until now, as part of their operation to “stop the terrorists,” the Russian Government has been bombing all opposition to the Assad regime, including the moderate Syrian Opposition. Given that the ceasefire has called for all parties involved to continue attacks against “terrorist groups,” there are some who are worried that Russia will continue its past bombings and attack all opposition to the Assad regime. There are supposed to be safeguards in check to make sure something like this don’t happen, but given that the Russian Government is also in charge of these monitors and safeguards, only time will tell how well this system holds up.

4. Syrian Election

Seeing as the war initially started due to opposition against the Assad Government, it is unlikely that true, stable peace will be achieved until the issue of governance is decided. As of now, President Assad has stated he will call for parliamentary elections in April, in accordance with Syria’s four year election cycle. However, many western and opposition officials have called for Assad’s immediate removal from power. Some have even called for his arrest for war crimes. The ability of the Syrian’s to resolve this issue will determine whether or not this ceasefire will lead to a permanent peace, or if old resentments will lead to resurgence in war.

Don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly believe this ceasefire is the right step forward. However, I also believe that this ceasefire isn’t enough to say that the war is truly over.

Pulkit Kashyap is a sophomore CS & Economics double major in the College of Arts and Sciences. Pulkit loves to watch superhero tv shows, read books on just about anything and swim. Global Impact appears on Wednesdays this semester. He can be reached at pk374@cornell.edu

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