There is a bit of good news in the foreign policy world today as a tentative ceasefire deal was reached on Syria among the major players. Of course, there are a lot of different sides in the Syria conflict. But the two most important sides are the Syrian government, backed by Russia and Iran, and the US-led coalition, which includes a limited number of rebel factions within Syria.
While this is certainly a positive development, it remains to be seen how much impact it will have on the ground. The rebel factions, outside of the outright jihadist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, are a very disjointed group. Thus, although the US and a purported representative of the rebels agreed to the ceasefire, it’s not clear that the actual rebel groups will cease the fighting on the ground. That is certainly what we can hope for.
Coincidentally, ISIS and Al Qaeda were not included in the ceasefire discussion, which means the air campaign against both groups (and the civilians around them) will continue unabated in any case.
To get a better understanding of this story, we’re recommending two pieces today. Up first is a recent article by Gareth Porter writing at Antiwar.com. Porter argues convincingly that the prospects for a sustainable peace in Syria have increased as Russian intervention appears to have successfully shored up the Syrian government’s grip on power. Note that this is in no way an endorsement of that intervention, which has certainly led to many civilian casualties (like all bombing campaigns). But the Russian-Syrian side of this conflict has appeared to be more open to a peaceful solution than the US and the opposition it supported which were intent on regime change. Of course, the Russian-Syrian side was interested in peace precisely because that would be more likely to result in stability for the government, which was desperately needed after a years-long civil war. But it was genuine. Meanwhile, the opposition had little to gain from a peace settlement, and none occurred.
Porter argues that recent gains by Syria and Russia on the ground have changed this calculation. Now that the opposition is weakened, perpetuating the conflict no longer furthers the goal of regime change in Syria. And accordingly, the US and its opposition were willing to talk.
This recent ceasefire agreement is the apparent outcome. And for more on the agreement itself, we recommend this short summary from the ever-reliable Jason Ditz, also at Antiwar.com.