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Saturday, February 17, 2018

What factors threaten the truce in Syria

At 23.00 Moscow time, or at midnight on Damascus, comes into force an agreement on a two-week ceasefire in Syria, the guarantors of which were made by Russia and the United States with the approval of the UN security Council. The chances of peace in Syria will indeed be achieved, much more than it seems. But there are numerous risk factors that should be analysed.

The agreement does not affect the terrorist groups, the struggle against which will be continued by the government army of Syria with the support of the Russian space forces, and the coalition led by the United States. But still no clear understanding of exactly which group of “moderate” armed opposition is ready for an unconditional ceasefire. Some of them already began to set his own conditions, including unrealistic, for example the termination of activity of the Russian group HQs in Syria. Another thing is that these guys by and large and no one asks: you either honour the agreement or not, and then have to act on the situation. But by default, all questions must now be resolved at the negotiating table. And this is the “table” does not mean that President Bashar Assad will invite everyone to tea in the camouflage and offer to share power. It’s not Khasavyurt.

“The implication is that if something goes wrong, the U.S., Turkey and some Arab powers will decide on military intervention in Syria will achieve its dismemberment and establishment of “zones of control”

The truce in itself is not peace. Identified two weeks – the date is largely arbitrary, since no formal commitments for its renewal no one didn’t assume. In fact, no one but the official Damascus, obvious responsibility for the failure of the truce can not be held. The Syrian government is obliged to respect (at least as partners in the negotiation process) to those ex-militants groups who agree to enter the peace process.

It is considered that the small groups carry the main danger for the peace process. They are unmanaged, and it is much easier to negotiate with large organizations, than to race with an olive branch to each field commander.

But in fact the situation is the opposite. Large armed groups, or formally assigned to the “moderate opposition” or the so-called Free Syrian army, controlled and coordinated at the level of intergovernmental policy, but not on earth. Most of their leaders see themselves as the bonapartes and the new rulers of Syria. Worse, many formally recognized by the West, opposition leaders in this regard, including generals, defectors and former members of Assad’s entourage, refused to participate directly in peace negotiations or evaded them.

What made the army of Syria with the support of the Russian VKS (infographics)But a small group fighting in isolated enclaves, and are quite willing to negotiate, and to integrate into Syrian society. The fact is that most of them consist of local people, whose conflict with the regime were political rather than religious or national character. And political contradictions present in Syria can be resolved, primarily through the delegation of rights to local government level to those groups of the population, which for five years of war has appeared in the real political faction.

The key word in the negotiations Damascus consciously transfers to civilian authorities. Civil governors of the provinces (and lower down the chain, representatives of regional and municipal authorities) stood at the head of created “councils of national reconciliation”. These tips doesn’t just happen and are not in an emergency procedure. They existed for a long time, but in the military situation, had such weight and such authority, which would allow them to engage in exciting their tasks directly. For the first time about the prevailing role of civil authorities over the military in the negotiation process with the armed opposition started talking somewhere in October – November last year, when the first projects were developed for the evacuation of the opposition from the surrounded enclaves.

The military command these initiatives have not always been for the soul: the generals assumed (often correctly) that restoring power, rank-and-file militants have chickened out. But in the HOMS military had to obey orders. The authority of civil authorities is growing as the Damascus performs household details of the arrangements: evacuation, exchange of land – no one aspect of such agreements was not violated, not to mention the delivery of humanitarian assistance in isolated enclaves with complex terrain. Moreover, local authorities know the details – right down to family ties and circumstances falling into one or another bandit group particular person.

This process is in the province of Latakia has already now, without waiting for the official start of the truce. But we must understand that “councils for reconciliation” is not social centers, and political negotiation platform. If a group with distinct and intelligible principles, is ready for political dialogue, Damascus, in turn, is ready to grant them positions in local government. Moreover, in the same Latakia is proposed to consider the interests of not only local opposition but also caught in the area of alien fighters. The main thing – that they were able to negotiate, but their ideology did not contain obvious terrorist elements.

Actually, this is the translation of civil war in a peaceful way. Regardless of, will last the truce required two weeks or not, it is already clear that progress will be. But we must not forget that once in Syria under the auspices of the United Nations already proclaimed the truce, which ended in a wave-like offensive of the opposition, in a short time strengthened its position and podpilivaya weapons.

The threat is still there, but it is not from the main. Frankly, everyone understands that negotiability opposition groups weather in this sense do not, unlike those groups of jihadists and equated to them who are the most dependent on external influences. The threat of external influence is much more urgent than the continuation of local resistance or other small groups. Well continue to fight in the area of Duma near Damascus “Jaish al-Islam” and Allah is with her, not for long. Assaults turkomanians groups or the threat of intervention in Syria by third countries much more dangerous.

Who’s friends with who and fighting in Syria and Iraq by the Way, a classic Treaty on mutual assistance in the framework of the aggression between Russia and Syria is not so far. But this diplomatic mechanism with a guarantee would eliminate the possibility of an attack on Syria from third countries, including Turkey. And, perhaps, would thwart so-called plan B, which at the suggestion of Secretary of state John Kerry is now actively discussed by liberal commentators, and representatives of the “diplomacy of NATO.” It is implied that, if something goes wrong, the U.S., Turkey and some Arab powers will be decided on direct military intervention in Syria will achieve its dismemberment and establishment of “zones of control.” And even if in these zones will not be proclaimed the new independent States, in Syria, possibly creating “new Bosnia” – formally unified, but divided and partially occupied the country without a clearly defined Central authority. Thus clear criteria that “something went wrong”, Secretary of state John Kerry has not publicly formulated until now.

In the creation of a regional security unit there is nothing supernatural. Ideally, such an instrument would, apart from Russia and Syria to sign, for example, Iran and Lebanon. Nobody makes a secret of the fact that Iranian military forces and units, consisting of citizens of Lebanon, were involved in the war on the side of Damascus. These relationships legitimitely through bilateral agreements, but the overall coalition from the point of view of international law does not exist. Of course, there are many caveats and gotchas (especially about Lebanon), but all this is surmountable.

Additional detail: the relationship with Israel. In tel Aviv there is no unambiguous assessment to the events in Syria and around it. On the one hand, Israel would like the weakening of Damascus, on the other – and much much more? The issue of control over the Golan controversial, but the appearance of them the ISIS or someone like them is already unacceptable. The relations of Israel with Iran already long ago reached the extreme degree of freezing, and both parties are interested in creating a platform for negotiations – albeit informal. Work as part of a new coalition to ensure the security and integrity of Syria could become such a platform.

Further extension of the negotiation process would have returned to the game the Kurds would determine the legal status of the Yezidis (the nation, they still or a religious sect?), to ensure the safety of Christian enclaves, including with attraction of possibilities of the Vatican, said the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow.

But while the military component has not been canceled. If Damascus during the period of the truce will really be able to establish life in the areas where the civil administration will replace the military, we can talk about the beginning of a fundamental change. However, Damascus is not the only one who is responsible for what is happening. Blind the withdrawal of military units from the areas where the truce is formally achieved, may lead to new explosion of violence. Of course, some of the forces will be freed up for dealing in those areas where anti-terrorist offensive operation on a large scale were previously impossible (e.g. in the area of Palmyra). But to get involved you should not.

A truce simply changes the format of what is happening and perhaps more clearly highlights who is who. But this is only a trial step which will not eliminate the total external pressure on Syria. Namely, the external pressure is the main element of destabilization. A way out of this situation is only possible if diplomatic security and integrity of Syria. But on the ground Damascus he will understand – even without the participation of military specialists.

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