The UN’s special envoy to Syria Mr. Staffan de Mistura is set to begin the seventh round of indirect peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition leaders. While the talks begin in Geneva, three war torn provinces in Southern Syria will be quiet, at least for the time being.
The ceasefire brokered last week between the United States, Russia, and Jordan is a step in the right direction. It may be the first piece of diplomatic fruit produced by the new Trump administration. As they attempt to build a working relationship with Russia. The ceasefire comes to relieve civilians living in the embattled region with humanitarian aid. As well as discuss what Syria’s future will be “day one” once the war is over.
The only issue is that the “day one” envisioned by Assad and his detractors could not be more different. The rebels wish to address how the Assad regime will peacefully transition out of power. And with powerful allies such as Russia and Iran, the Assad regime does not even have to pretend to entertain the idea. Instead the regime wishes to focus on the threat of Islamic terrorism within the country. And at this stage they unfortunately have a point. It would be wonderful for Assad to step down from power in Syria, but that is a pipe dream as long as jihadist militants like ISIS still maintain influence within its borders.
Another reason a political transition in Damascus is unlikely is because government forces are retaking land, and quick. With their Iranian backers, government fighters are sweeping across the Homs province of Syria securing vital gas fields. With this momentum there is no reason for the regime to reconsider its’ stance towards the rebels and their demands.
But in good news, ISIS is losing. It is not unreasonable to believe that Daesh (ISIS) will lose all territory within the next year or so. However, that only heals one ailment of this civil war disease. Civil wars are one of the more difficult crises to cure. And unfortunately for those of us glad the killing in Syria has stopped, if only in one small region and only for a few days, ceasefires can extend the bloodshed.
Ceasefire’s are crucial in stopping war. But in civil war it is different. Because whoever maintains power after a civil war has de facto control over their opponent. There can’t be two separate states. This creates mistrust and can lead to exacerbating grievances. Which then lays the groundwork for future instability.
Consider the fact that the rebels demands in the Syrian civil war is that the Assad family steps down. At this point this is a non-negotiable demand. If peace is hypothetically brokered and Assad is still in power there is mistrust “day one.” With the amount of death and despair inflicted upon the rebels by government forces, how does the government expect to disarm them? Are the rebels supposed to willingly drop their weapons? Not to mention the “rebels” in reality are a slew of forces with varying ideologies that are not one cohesive body. Will the Assad regime “forgive” these rebels? I cannot imagine the populace in Syria coming together after the crimes that have been committed by all parties.
What seems to have happened instead is that the brutality of this war has assured Assad will not see peace in Syria. Unless Assad can address the grievances which initially began the war – a faltering economy, high youth unemployment, and the authoritarian nature of oppressing dissent – the civil war in Syria will become a cycle.
While the new ceasefire in Syria is important to lessen the killing, it will not end the war. At this point it seems that the war for Syria will be prolonged. This ceasefire will eventually give, and the killing will resume.