Notes on the Latest Russian-American Contentious Agreement.

(addendum and corrections @ 21:24 Damascus time: in bold)

Note of the author: This article consists of a brief rundown of the latest Russia-US agreement’s major points. The referenced articles discuss the agreement facts but also the analysis each author has about it. I do not deal with their personal analyses here. Instead, I provide a 1) translation of the principal settlement points, and 2) my own insight about the whole situation.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his US counterpart John Kerry met yesterday, 9th of September 2016, in Geneva. The meeting reportedly lasted a “record” 12 hours. Pizzas and vodka were even distributed to the waiting journalists.

While the English-speaking media is busy reporting on the pizzas and vodka, it covered very little of the actual agreement contents . The Arabic press, however, contains several extensive reports on the new agreement points, why this agreement is different than the previous ones and what are its possible implications for the future of Syria.

The plan consists of two truces of 48 hours each, within a 7-day period, starting September 12th. If the truces are successful, it will extended to 72 hours (instead of 24). And, if those are also successful, a permanent ceasefire will be implemented. Until now, it is unclear whether or not this proposed ceasefire will be a repeat of the one from past February.

Kerry reiterated that Russian-American joint operations are putting up a map to identify the locations of the terrorist groups. Lavrov said that this joint operation will identify the procedures to respond to the factions that would not respect the stopping of hostilities.

The Americans received the guarantees from the Russians about Syria’s commitment to the agreement of Geneva. It seems also that any political solution/agreement will have to wait until completion of the situation on the ground (aka the 7-day agreement).

In addition, Kerry said that “we have communicated with opposition factions which confirmed its readiness to implement the agreements we drafted”.

This new Russian-American agreement is regarded as a first “because it has a very strict and clear time-line”. However, its main weakness remains “the absence of monitoring and control measures to ensure its application”. In contrast, this agreement is different from the previous one (February 2016) “because it is explicitly linked to the future stages” of any solution to stop the war in Syria, and it is clearly stated that the truce will turn into a complete ceasefire (see above).

Reaching this agreement came as a surprise, as it was not expected. On September 3rd, it was that Russia and the USA were “very close to a deal” concerning Syria. On September 5th, it was stated that the two sides could not, in fact, reach an agreement. Indeed, the Russian side had “refused a big part of the agreement, when it was presented to them by the Americans in previous negotiations, as evidenced by Michael Ratney’s letter”.

Michael Ratney, the U.S. Special Envoy for Syria, drafted and presented to Russia a plan, which states that “the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) must withdraw 500m to the North of Castello road”. In other instances, the distances of withdrawal range from 1000 to 3500m, to the South of that same road. In addition, Ratney’s plan “dictates which weapons the SAA can keep”, and “which weapons will be placed in the proposed monitoring points”.

Evidently, the ground situation is currently very different than the one back in last February. Indeed, the advances of the SAA and its allies in Aleppo were a turning-point in the course of the war. However, one still wonders how this agreement will turn out, especially because of some of its very particular aspects. Indeed, it is important to keep in mind that this truce will most probably NOT turn into a ceasefire, as it is almost guaranteed that the terrorists will not respect the initial truce.  The terrorists have a very long record in breaking the previous truces. Furthermore, and in previous cases, the USA, Turkey and Saudi Arabia exploited truce agreements to re-arm the terrorists. This time will definitely be no different on this front.

Some Arabic articles are saying that Americans have lied to the Russians many times, changing the clauses of various deals and agreements. Even with this being factually true, Lavrov and other Russian politicians seem to be making the same mistake over and over again. After the first time, it actually stops being a mistake, and becomes a deliberate, calculated geopolitical decision. Other articles mention that Syria has become a playground where Russian and American interests collide. By this logic, Syria and its people are considered as simple pawns, who will suffer no matter the outcome.

A few days ago, it was very clear that the SAA and its on-the-ground allies are continuing their battles as they deem adequate, irrespective of political agreements and decisions made by Russia, the USA, Turkey or others. All the details of the newly-reached agreement are still not available to the public, and its outcome will most likely be similar to the previous ceasefire: more losses for the SAA and its allies. One then wonders: why repeat the same mistake over and over again? Or is it not a mistake, then, but instead a well-calculated decision, the result of which is detrimental to Syria?

Referenced articles:

http://www.almayadeen.net/news/politics/41663/%D9%85%D9%88%D8%B3%D9%83%D9%88-%D9%88%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B4%D9%86%D8%B7%D9%86-%D8%AA%D8%AA%D9%88%D8%B5%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A5%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A7%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%A7%D9%82-%D8%A8%D8%B4%D8%A3%D9%86-%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A7

https://assafir.com/Article/1/509823

 

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Notes on the Latest Russian-American Contentious Agreement.

The Constitution of Russia and the USA for Syria.

Similarly to 2012, Syria’s Constitution will only be changed by Syrians themselves through a referendum . However, both Russia and the USA have drafted a Constitution for Syria, to be implemented as part of the “transition” plan decided by Resolution 2254.

Even though Syria officially rejected the draft, it is crucial that people know the plans Russia and the USA have for Syria. Those plans completely change Syria’s present and future, as seen from the proposed changes in the current Constitution.

fixed finalPart Two Article


References:

The Constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic (2012): http://sana.sy/en/?page_id=1489

Overview of the Russian and American Constitution for Syria (in Arabic): http://www.al-akhbar.com/node/258466

The Constitution of Russia and the USA for Syria.

The Elephant in Syria’s Halls

In discussing the geopolitical climate of the war in Syria, the overwhelming majority of analysts and journalists tend to focus on the points of rapprochement between the different parties involved. However, focusing solely on the positives will lead to an ultimate bias, in which criticism is viewed as an attack, facts slowly become opinions and analysis turns into defeatism.

Benefits shape alliances.

Some groups (i.e. the West, Turkey and Gulf countries) came together with the goal of systematically destroying Syria. Others, such as the Syrian Army first and foremost, and its allies (i.e. Hezbollah and Iran) united forces and strategies in order to combat terrorism. Russia joining the Syrian Army and its allies evidently denotes that Moscow sees a strong ally in Syria.

In his latest article, journalist Sami Kleib outlines yet again the gains of Iran’s involvement: “Iran benefited from the resistance of the Syrian Army and the army’s alliance with Hezbollah”, writes the author. He continues: “the interest between Damascus and Teheran is mutual”. Indeed, one of the most important benefits of Iran was the new nuclear agreement, and the lift of the sanctions. In addition, “Iran became a partner in the fight against terrorism, and in finding peaceful solutions to wars in the Arab World”.

Concerning Russia, the benefits of its direct immersion in the Syrian war (since September 2015) have been extensively covered: from the Latakia base and its importance, to the historical relations between Damascus and Moscow – all point out to strategic points of accord between the countries.

But what about the points of disaccord?

One source of conflict between Syria/Iran/Hezbollah and Russia is Israel. Unsurprisingly, for aforementioned reasons, this specific source of conflict is frequently under-reported and under-analyzed in the Western mainstream media, but also in alternative media outlets. Conversely, in the Arab media in general, and the Levantine one in particular, the analysis of this divergence and its implication for the Levant are extensive.

Journalist Kleib, in the same article mentioned above, writes:

Israeli war minister Moshe Yaalon openly stated that Israel and Moscow have agreed on allowing Israel to air strike Hezbollah in Syria. In short, it was summed up by: “we agreed not to bother them and them not bothering us” («اتفقنا ألا نزعجهم ولا يزعجونا»).

This statement was made during Netanyahu’s meeting with Putin in Moscow on September 21, 2015, 10 days before the first Russian airstrikes on terrorist targets in Homs (September 30, 2015). One of the most recent Israeli violation of Syrian sovereignty seems to have the greatest implication. Indeed, three months after the first Russian airstrikes, Samir Kuntar was killed in Damascus (December 20, 2015). Even though some attributed the attack to a mortar fired by terrorists, and while the Zionist entity did not deny it, Hezbollah confirmed it was an Israeli airstrike that, in fact, killed Kuntar. Russia cannot be wronged for not retaliating. In fact, expecting Russia to retaliate against Israel is an emotive reaction as this is strategically absurd.

However, the concern arises when two and two are put together so to speak: the timing of Israel’s statement, the start of Russian airstrikes against terrorists, the Israeli strikes on Damascus. This concern is exacerbated by Israeli president Rivlin’s visit to Moscow, during which he met with Putin two days (on March 16, 2016) after Moscow’s announcement withdrawal from Syria (announced March 14, 2016).

To quote Rivlin:

We want Iran and Hezbollah not to emerge strengthened from this entire process. Everybody agrees that the Islamic State organization is a danger to the entire world, but Shiite Iranian fundamentalist Islam is for us just as dangerous.

What comes after?

The interests of the factions involved do seem too conflicting. How will those interests converge? How will they diverge? What are the implications of Syrian Kurds’ recent declaration of a ‘federal region’ on Syria’s integrity? Will this declaration reinforce or diminish Russia’s support for Syrian Kurds?

As with each US election, the nearer to the election time, the worst the situation becomes. What will this year’s election bring the Levant?

Sami Kleib’s article: http://assafir.com/Article/481886/MobileEmail

The Elephant in Syria’s Halls

There are no friends in times of war, only allies.

In an interview with SputnikNews, Russian Prime Minister Medvedev asserted the following:

 The Russian Aerospace Defense Forces are in Syria at the request of the legal authorities of the country. Our goal is to help the Syrian people rid their country of ISIS [Islamic State] militants, not create a new war there. Iran, with which we are coordinating, is also helping Syria at the request of its government. And that’s the kind of coordination we are offering everyone who is ready to stand up against Daesh (Islamic State/IS/ISIS/ISIL), including the patriotic opposition, the Free Syrian Army.

Even though the proponents of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are adamant that the group forms a legitimate and moderate opposition, this claim has been discredited years ago. Indeed, the FSA are terrorists and their massacres have been widely documented throughout the war on Syria (check the references at the end of the article). In addition, it seems that the FSA has become a ghost, as many officers from the group have been reported to defect to ISIS, proving once more that the ‘moderate rebel’ vs ‘terrorist’ distinction perpetuated by many alike is void.

This distinction ploy was carefully orchestrated. Firstly, the Western media was slow and reluctant in condemning the FSA. Secondly, the Western media, alongside that many other non-Western media channels, focused solely on ISIS ever since the group “separated” from Al-Qaeda in 2014. This well-calculated distinction, which seems to be also made by Medvedev, is extremely dangerous for a myriad of reasons. Most importantly, it goes against what the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has been doing for the past 5 years.

In combating terrorism, the SAA first, and later on its closest allies, never distinguished between the FSA and ISIS, or any other terrorist group, as all factions terrorized the Syrian people, sold its oil, massacred its people, destroyed its ruins, demolished its infrastructure, amongst many other atrocities.

There are no friends in wars, only allies. And allies have specific priorities in term of strategic interests, which are prone to change with time. No country would, or should, set itself on fire to protect an ally. For example, Russia would never bomb Turkey, Saudi Arabia or Israel, as many people have ‘hoped’. Hope has no place in geo-political decisions.

It is then time for us to use critical thinking in analyzing the strategy-making of Russia and other allies. Hyping up an ally, without being critical of it, is precarious as it will lead to mindlessly following said ally, ultimately acting against our own strategic interests.

saa-20131121-1


A reference list, mainly documenting FSA crimes as reported by both Western and non-Western media:

1) How The Free Syrian Army Became A Largely Criminal Enterprise: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-the-free-syrian-army-became-a-largely-criminal-enterprise-2013-11?IR=T

2) War crimes by Syrian rebels must be condemned too: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/aug/10/human-rights-abuses-syrias-regime-condemned

3) The Dark Side of the Free Syrian Army: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-wagner/dark-side-free-syrian_b_2380399.html

4) Free Syrian Army war crime – shoots unarmed civilians – graphic content: http://humanrightsinvestigations.org/2012/11/15/free-syrian-army-war-crime-shoots-unarmed-civilians/

5) Don’t underestimate Free Syrian Army: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/10/syria-fsa-isis-media-coverage-palmyra-101-divison.html

6) Syria: Atrocities Committed by US-NATO Sponsored “Opposition”. Executioner for Syria’s “Rebels” Tells His Story: http://www.globalresearch.ca/syria-atrocities-committed-by-us-nato-sponsored-opposition-executioner-for-syria-s-rebels-tells-his-story/30072

7) Massacres in Aleppo by Western-armed “Free Syrian Army”: http://www.globalresearch.ca/massacres-in-aleppo-by-western-armed-free-syrian-army/32205

8) Houla massacre carried out by Free Syrian Army, according to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2012/06/syri-j13.html

9) http://www.syrianews.cc/russia-france-begin-mesphistophelan-waltz-syria/

10) http://sputniknews.com/interviews/20160212/1034628554/medvedev-sputnik-exclusive-interview.html#ixzz403qiZUdT

There are no friends in times of war, only allies.