New truce in Syria: In whose interest?
Russia and the United States agreed to a cease-fire in Syria from midnight February 27th, Syrian time; Russian President Vladimir Putin stated this. According to him, the two presidents agreed personally in a telephone conversation that took place at the initiative of the Russian side. Before the 27th all the warring factions in Syria must confirm to the Russian or American side its commitment to the ceasefire.
Those who do not offer confirmation are to be regarded as legitimate targets for attacks by the Russian airforce and Syrian Army. Also, the groups "Islamic State", "Al-Nusra", and other formations recognized by the UN as terrorists, do not fall under the armistice agreement.
According to available information, the Russian and American military should further map out the territories occupied by groups participating in the truce; the Syrian army is not to attack these areas.
The agreement was preceded by lengthy negotiations between the Foreign Ministers of Russia and the United States; attempts to start inter-Syrian talks in late January failed as a definitive list of participants could not be agreed. U.S allies - Turkey, Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia - openly tried to legitimize the terrorist groups "Jaish al-Islam" and "Ahrar al-Sham." In addition, the Wahhabi monarchy and Turkey opposed the participation of Kurds in the peace talks.
The new U.S strategy in Syria
Russia's military successes in Syria and the Syrian army’s victories undermined the previous U.S strategy in the region. At a time when a military victory for Assad had ceased to be impossible, the United States sought the start of peaceful negotiations instead in order to defeat Russia and Iran in the diplomatic field; the most vulnerable are pro-American Islamists. In their destruction, the Western leaders will have to either support Assad or explain to their people why they decided to silently support ISIS.
The siege of Aleppo by the Syrian army and the threat of total closure of the border with Turkey have forced the United States to increase pressure on Russia. Turkey and Saudi Arabia began to blackmail Russia and Iran, threatening an invasion and the delivery of modern air defense systems. Israel and Jordan were also alarmed by the approach of the Syrian army to its borders. There is the threat that militants in the south of the country will be cut off from the bases and sources of support in Jordan and Israel; the representatives of these countries hastily visited Moscow.
The Kurdish factor
At the same time the United States demonstrated that their differences with Turkey on the Kurdish issue is not a serious factor, something Russia could take advantage of. On the contrary, in this case, the U.S can afford to provoke a clash between Russia and Turkey, remaining above the fray, giving both the power to weaken each other.
Ukraine as an instrument of pressure
A further U.S tool of pressure in the direction of Russia is Ukraine. In Kiev, at the end of last week, radicals initiated a new "Maidan". Among the demands of nationalists were the resignation of the current government and the resumption of the war in Donbass. The Ukrainian ultra-right has traditionally acted as agents of U.S influence and are overseen by U.S intelligence agencies.
At the same time, there was an intensification in hostilities across the front line in Donbass. The Ukrainian military went back to the tactics of full-scale fire on positions of militias and the civilian population of Donbass People's Republics. On the front lines in the Donetsk Republic infantry skirmishes are ongoing between Ukrainian troops and militias.
It is evident that the resumption of hostilities in Ukraine is another weapon that the US are using to put pressure on Russia to stop their military activities in Syria.
The role of the "sixth column"
According to the information available to us, representatives of the pro-Western sixth column in Russia and Iran in the last month have repeatedly tried to put pressure on the top political leadership to agree to the termination of the military operation. Peace initiatives of this kind were stated every week, but patriots always managed to put them on the backburner. Thus, on this occasion it has succeeded. The effective use of the Russian, Iranian and Syrian military lead to the blockade of Aleppo and the intensification in activities in the southern direction.
The compromise version
The new agreement with the U.S on the one hand shows the compromise between these two tendencies. The truce was shifted towards the beginning of March, as Russia offered initially. The U.S failed to secure an immediate ceasefire against terrorists. However, the opposition, nor pro-American Islamists, nor ISIS is completely broken. The military formally has only a week to destroy pro-American militants.
The truce and Russian interests
The implementation of the truce delays the prospects for the Saudi and Turkish invasion of Syria. At the same time, the Russian Air Force reserves the right to conduct operations against "terrorists" after February 27th. The fact that a single list of terrorist organizations agreed by all parties to the conflict operating in Syria is still lacking, and its creation is delayed, gives the Russians, Iranians and the official government in Damascus the opportunity to continue fighting under the pretext of combating terrorism. Moreover, particular opposition groups, against whom Russians and Syrians are fighting against, pledged allegiance to open terrorist structures, and were part of the pro-American umbrella coalitions. Militants from the Free Syrian Army are fighting in Aleppo province together with ISIS and terrorists from "Al-Nusra." When it comes to a particular Commander it is always impossible to distinguish a rebel from a terrorist.
The truce and U.S interests
At the same time, any truce in an unfinished military operation can be used to reinforce militants. Anti-Assad formations will have breathing space to restock weapons, money, and will be able to replenish their personnel. In addition the truce actually consolidates the existing territorial fragmentation of Syria along the lines of the main control groups. Pulling Assad’s opponents into the political process could potentially weaken the geopolitical position of Russia and Iran in Syria.
The futility of elections
In an effort to strengthen its position, the government in Damascus announced the holding of parliamentary elections on 13th April. Pro-American opposition has already announced that it will not participate in them. Their own legitimacy in the eyes of Western countries is close to zero. At the same time the holding of elections does not contribute to the completion of the conflict. The only way out is the victory of one of the parties by military force.
As we mentioned earlier:
Syria, in its current form, is a patchwork of zones of influence of the various factions. Much of the population has left the country. There is no single political system on its territory; this cannot arise as a result of the elections, in which local field commanders will use direct military pressure. Restoring the unity of the political nation is not possible without the formation of a homogeneous and safe political space. Otherwise, any elections will serve to only boost the fragmentation and create prerequisites for a new round of civil war, as was the case in Libya. The formation of a single political space cannot be without monopolizing the right to legitimate violence in a single center of power, which is impossible without the disarmament of rebel groups; the latter is not expected in the short term.
Return to realism
The agreements between Russia and the United States demonstrate that, due to the failure of the UN-format of talks on Syria, both the United States and Russia are ready to return to the good old-fashioned realist policy of direct agreements between the great powers. It is significant that the fate of Syria was solved without lengthy consultations with Damascus and the Syrian opposition, putting them before the need to start negotiations. The main question is how to return to the rhetoric of realism and direct agreements with Russia, which underlines its status as a great power, and will be used to weaken Russia in the diplomatic game. In the past century, the most skillful conductor of this policy was Henry Kissinger. Whether the American leadership in the current environment can continue its course and whether Russia is ready to pay for their own national interests, a "partnership" with the United States, are the main questions that arise in connection with the prospect of new talks on Syria.