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Astana Peace Deal: What you Need to Know

After much negotiation and wrangling there appears to be a peace agreement between the backers of the major factions in the now 6 year Syrian civil war.

What exactly does the deal entail?
The guarantors of the agreement are Turkey, Russia, and Iran.  Below are a few excerpts of the agreement’s primary points:
– the following de-escalation areas shall be created with the aim to put a prompt end to violence, improve the humanitarian situation and create favorable conditions to advance political settlement of the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic:
*Idlib province and certain parts of the neighboring provinces (Latakia, Hama, and Aleppo provinces)
*certain parts in the north of Homs provinces
*in eastern Ghouta
*certain parts of southern Syria (Deraa and Al Quneitra provinces)
The creation of the de-escalation areas and security zones is a temporary measure, the duration of which will initially be 6 months and will be automatically extended on the basis of consensus of the Guarantors

-Within the lines of the de-escalation areas:
*hostilities between the conflicting parties (the government of the Syrian Arab Republic and the armed opposition groups that have joined and will join the ceasefire regime) with the use of any kinds of weapons, including aerial assets, shall be ceased
*rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access shall be provided

-Along the lines of the de-escalation areas, security zones shall be established in order to prevent incidents and military confrontations between the conflicting parties

-The Guarantors shall:
*take all necessary measures to continue the fight against DAESH/ISIL, Nusra Front and all other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated /ISIL as designated by the Security Council within and outside the de-escalation areas

Who actually signed the agreement?
The only signatories of the agreement are Russia, Iran, and Turkey.  Neither the Assad regime nor the opposition have signed on.  However, the Assad regime has noted that they will abide by the agreement but will still target and go after “terrorists” even if they are in the de-escalation zones.  It should be noted that the Assad government refers to all of the armed resistance as terrorists.
Meanwhile, the opposition did not sign the agreement either as they left the negotiation chamber in protest that the Iranians are one of the guarantors of the de-escalation deal.

How does this agreement differ from past failed agreements?
Very little of it is new actually except for the fact that all of the parties were present at the talks including representatives from both the regime and the opposition.

Analysis
1. Russia has proven many times in the past that they are either unable or unwilling to rein in the Assad regime.  They have been in the role as “guarantor” several times in the conflict and has failed in that regard.  After a horrific chemical attack on civilians in 2013, it was Russia who negotiated with the Obama administration to oversee the disposal of all of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons.  As has been very apparent, the regime has used chemical weapons multiple times since Russia declared them “chemical free”, most recently in a Sarin gas attack on the 4th of April in Khan Shaykhoon.
Turkey’s presence as a guarantor has not yielded much in the way of result either.  After the negotiated exit of civilians and fighters from Aleppo, a ceasefire was in place in much of the country.  However, the regime continued to bombard and massacre civilians particularly in the Wadi Barada region.  Turkey offered little resistance to the blatant violation of the ceasefire and the killings continued.
Iran is an active participant in the conflict with troops, equipment, and proxies on the ground.  Exactly how they can be seen as a “guarantor” of peace in the conflict is puzzling to say the least.

2. As long as there are vague clauses such as the regime and others having the freedom to attack Al Qaida “associates” there will never be a lasting peace deal.  Firstly the wording, depending on how you interpret it, could actually include each and every group fighting on the side of the opposition in northern Syria since they all have shared the battlefield with Nusra.  How is it plausible that arguably the most potent fighting force against the regime is open for attack by the guarantors of peace?  Looking ahead, should the “Guarantors of Peace” be successful in degrading or destroying HTS, then exactly who will replace them on the battlefields against the regime and it’s allies (some of whom are on the UN list of terrorists)?  In effect it would be tantamount to handing much of, if not all of northern Syria over to the regime.  It is very unlikely that the “Guarantors” are not unaware of this nuance.

Bilal Abdul Kareem

Bilal Abdul Kareem is the owner of On The Ground News.

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