Chessmaster Putin allows humanitarian convoys to distract attention from air attacks and battle for Aleppo


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

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.