Russia seems to be complying with part of the sketchy “Cessation of Hostilities agreement in Munich on February 12, 2016, by allowing humanitarian aid convoys to enter areas that have been surrounded and cut off from outside supplies.
The West and Arab countries need to remember who they are dealing with, however, in the persons of Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin.
One may recall the “white truck convoys” that Putin used to distract the world’s attention from his invasion of the eastern Ukraine by surreptious movements of Russian forces across the frontier, in August, 2014, as the world’s attention was riveted on the stops and starts of the first white truck convoy that left Moscow.
One may also recall how al-Assad, with Russian support, played the humanitarian aid game in Syria in 2012, and how he and Putin thwarted the U.N. monitors sent to oversee the cease-fire ordered by the U.N. Security Council pursuant to Resolutions 2042 and 2043.
What the West and Arab countris should be focused on right now is the move by Russian and Syrian military forces to take Aleppo, and control of territory in the north through which supplies reach the rebels.
Once those objectives are achieved, Russia and Syria may well indulge the West with some cease-fires for certain periods of time, always under the control of Putin as in the Minsk II ceasefire “process” in the eastern Ukraine.
Of course it would be great if a real cessation of hostilities were to take place before the rebels are routed by the combined power of al-Assad, Russia, Hezbollah, and Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
This does not seem to be the plan of either Putin or al-Assad, and is not likely to occur.
Playing into Russian and Syrian hands, the American administration appears to have entered into “the Twilight Zone” of Barack Obama’s cerebations, where U.S. policy consists of simply telling Putin that his current moves are illogical and will ultimately work to his and Russia’s disadvantage.
Putin and al-Assad will listen to Obama’s mentoring comments, so long as nothing gets in the way of their armies on the march and Russian bombing of the opposition forces.
(1) NICK CUMMING-BRUCE and RICK GLADSTONEFEB, “Aid Deliveries Begin to 5 Besieged Syrian Towns,” New York Times, February 17, 2016.
(T)here has been little indication that any of the antagonists or their backers are ready to halt fighting.
If anything, Syrian forces and their Russian allies have intensified attacks in recent days, particularly in rebel-held parts of northern Syria, including the city of Aleppo, once the country’s commercial center.
(2) “U.S. Official: Russian Air Strikes In Syria Increasing Despite Truce,”
RFE/RL, February 17, 2017.
(3) Sam Dagher, “U.N. Delivers Aid in SyriaInternational community hopes the aid will help revive peace talks,” Wall Street Journal, February 17, 2016 (updated 10:59 p.m. ET).
The Trenchant Observer