The Astana 6 conference from the capital city of Kazakhstan is complete. The result:
-Turkey, Russia, and Iran have all come to an agreement to set up de-escalation zones around Syria for 6 months, with the option to extend (or not). These zones include: Aleppo countryside, Hama, Homs Latakia, and of course Idlib.
-Iran, Russia, and Turkey will all act as guarantors. In addition to that, on Friday, a pro Turkish government publication cited, without naming it’s source, that the governorate of Idlib will be partitioned into three sections policed by Iranian, Turkish, and Russian troops in different areas.
Some are hailing this agreement as a success. “We really welcome this agreement today because we have always been pushing for de-escalation,” said the UN’s special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura. Before raising my voice and pumping my fist in the air out of extreme joy, there needs to be some reflection. Below are three reasons why:
1. The Astana agreement is nothing more than a stall tactic by the regime. It has been clear for quite some time that the UN has no interest in helping the oppressed people of Syria achieve the goals of the revolution and bring down a dictator who has killed more than a half million people with weapons of mass destruction. The UN simply wants quiet. Whether that quiet comes in the form of a deal that will allow Assad’s government to remain in power with their fingers still on the buttons of weapons of mass destruction is of no real consequence. After all, de Mistura doesn’t live in Syria.
The goal of the Assad regime and it’s allies is simply to free up their troops from the battle fronts with rebel forces for a few months enabling them to mount a surge to wrest the territories of Deer Az Zoor and Raqqa from ISIS. At the completion of the 6 months, after the dust having settled on their victory in Raqqa and Deer Az Zoor, the regime can simply gather their forces and attack the remaining rebel strongholds. In the end, they would have the unwitting help of the UN to thank for it.
Seeing through this very transparent ruse are some rebel groups, among them Haya Tahrir Sham. Some of their commanders have been saying so since 2016. Unfortunately, due to the support of other smaller rebel groups, the plan of the regime has been given legitimacy. Thus an atmosphere has been created that would be toxic for any rebel military activities to secure their territories for at least 6 months or more.
The Guarantors of the Deal
2. Turkey: Ankara has been a genuine friend to the revolution. However the cost of that friendship has forced Turkey to now look to secure it’s national interests over that of a neighboring country. It should be noted that the agreement that saw rebels and civilians exiting from Eastern Aleppo last December also included a cessation of hostilities clause as well. The Assad regime did not abide by the agreement and instead, used the planes that had been dropping waves of bombs on Aleppo to attack other areas including a fierce bombing campaign on Wadi Barada and other areas close to Damascus. What was Turkey’s response? Nothing. In all fairness, even if Turkey wanted to respond what would they have responded with? Would they have sent Turkish war planes to do battle with Russian and Syrian aircraft in the skies over Damascus? If they were going to do so, they would have done it several years ago and everyone knew that.
Russia and Iran: Moscow and Tehran know that Turkey has absolutely no interest in a military fight with either of them and therefore their political stances reflect that superiority.
Also, missing from the details of the deal (which reportedly haven’t even been worked out yet) is what would happen in the event of ceasefire violations?
The killing spree that saw the death of a half million people over the course of 7 years could not have been possible without the Russians and the Iranians. Even before the Russians entered the conflict militarily 2 years ago, the Syrian army was well equipped with rockets, missiles, and ammunition from Moscow. Iran sent ground forces long before the Russians so they could secure their country’s interests as well. Is it realistic that these two heavily invested major players could be trusted by anyone, except themselves, to act as guarantors of a ceasefire and to act objectively? Again, we are talking about a ceasefire that isn’t in their mutual interest to last much longer than a few months, which is just enough time to conclude their business with ISIS, seize their territory, and free up their troops to continue the fight in rebel controlled territory.
There will be no Justice
3. Missing from the results of the Astana conference is the concerted effort that will take place to bring the Assad government to justice. This is no longer mentioned. “Regime change is no longer a priority” is what we continuously hear from western capitals such as Washington, Paris, and others. The perpetrators and their accomplices are all still in command of large armies while the powers that be are focused on keeping Assad in place. With Assad, the status quo is maintained which is more important to the international community than bringing justice to the families of the victims.
To conclude, all of this takes place as the Rohingya are massacred in Myanmar, once again, under the watch of the UN. Absolutely nothing is done to protect the oppressed other than empty words of condemnation and ridicule, which doesn’t do much when the killers have been watching the events in Syria and realize that there is nothing to fear from the international community.
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